Is this the ultimate Romantic and romantic trio from Robert Schumann?
Sunday mornings at the Wigmore Hall have an atmosphere all their own, as there can be few more beautiful experiences than hearing a small ensemble play exquisite music amidst a point of relative calm in the weekend. The opening to the Amatis Piano Trio’s concert, however, took the sublimity to another level by beginning with just a single cellist (Samuel Shepherd) on stage. If the sound of his solo line cutting though the air was enough to stir the heart, there could have felt no more wondrous response than the sound of Lea Hausmann’s violin emanating from the back of the hall. As their exchanges developed while she worked her way through the auditorium and pianist Mengjie Han also came to the stage, it felt a revelation to experience Andrea Tarrodi’s Moorlands (2018), a hauntingly evocative piece that would have been unfamiliar to many of those present.
While written 230 and 167 years after the programme’s two other pieces, it complemented them perfectly in showing off the ensemble’s strengths. This is because the players demonstrated intricate knowledge of all of the works’ intended effects, and the skills to craft them so that they became particularly multifaceted affairs. They did not just understand when a phrase should, for example, be driven, but precisely by how much, and just what tone or amount of pressure was required to carry off the effect. The programme’s two main pieces were also introduced from the stage, which provided some helpful pointers on what to look out for by highlighting the group’s own feelings on them.
“…there can be few more beautiful experiences than hearing a small ensemble play exquisite music…”
Shepherd suggested that when listening to Mozart’s Piano Trio No. 5 in C K548 (1788) one can hear elements of overture, piano concerto and violin concerto and also imagine that Mozart was dreaming of writing opera. However, while the piece certainly gives ample opportunity for each instrumentalist to enjoy the spotlight, no player strived to shine for the sake of it, and it was notable just how much each produced sounds that were appropriate for the occasion. Especially in the opening Allegro, the precision and intricacies in Shepherd’s cello playing worked as one with his underlying tone, and he always applied just the right level of drive for the occasion. In a similar vein, Hausmann’s violin playing positively flourished, but felt just grounded enough to prevent it from slipping out of kilter with the overall structure of the work, or the contributions of the other players. Han’s piano playing stood out particularly in the Andante cantabile, and epitomised the overall output in being highly sensitive while never indulging in histrionics.
Robert Schumann’s Piano Trio No. 3 in G minor, Op. 110 (1851) deserves far more outings than it receives, and Shepherd preceded the performance by reading what Schumann had written to his wife Clara at the time. With the composer proclaiming “Your love and loyalty have made me a new creator”, the ensemble performed the piece with the idea that the violin is Clara and the cello Robert. One could consequently hear in the Bewegt, doch nicht zu rasch and Ziemlich langsam exchanges of affection and ideas, but also the slight tensions and arguments that there are in any relationship. Then there felt a major shift as we moved to the Rasch and Kräftig, mit Humor as if Robert and Clara were leaving the privacy of their own home and going out to face the world together. It made for a fascinating reading, and, by focusing on the relationship between the pair, the trio became both a Romantic and romantic piece of music! By way of an encore, the group performed Kreisler’s Schön Rosmarin (c.1905) to conclude another memorable Sunday morning at the Wigmore Hall.
• For details of all of the Amatis Piano Trio’s recordings and future events visit its website.
• For details of all upcoming Sunday morning concerts at the venue visit the Wigmore Hall website.