Sunday 20 July 2014
It says a great deal about the enthusiasm of devotees of Concerts at Cratfield that there was a virtually full church on this occasion, despite a torrential downpour in the area shortly before the start and flooded roads all around, and a new group performing a programme of works, one of which was completely new and the others not the most familiar. It also says a great deal for the organisers that they succeeded in obtaining the services at consecutive concerts of winners of the new but already highly prestigious Royal Philharmonic Society Albert and Eugenie Frost Music Trust annual prize for chamber music, the first being the Wu Quartet, previously reviewed on this website by David Mintz.
This concert was given by the Linos Piano Trio, previously known as the Lakeside Piano Trio, under which name they played at one of the winter lunchtime chamber music concerts at the Jubilee Hall in Aldeburgh in 2012, when I remember them as making a considerable impression. They have since changed their violinist and their name but with no diminution in the quality of their playing, which has if anything even improved. There is an obvious rapport between the members, combined with striking musicianship and impressive technical accomplishment.
The programme was a very interesting one. It started with what was described as a ‘sonata for keyboard with violin and cello’ by CPE Bach, sixth son of the transcendent genius Johann Sebastian. Though this relationship did him no harm during his lifetime when he was even more popular than his father, the inevitable comparison has worked against him during the subsequent years. This is most unfair, since much of his music is of striking originality Despite its description this work is a full-blown trio with important parts for violin and ‘cello, and with many unexpected and ingenious twists and turns of harmony and rhythm anticipating Haydn in many respects. In this performance all its ingenuity and humour were shown to the full and it made me eager to hear the more of the work of the composer of whom, I must confess, I have hitherto been rather dismissive.
The second work in the programme was the Piano Trio no 3 by Schumann, again a work with which I am regrettably unfamiliar. Not Schumann at his best, it is nevertheless pleasing to listen to and was superlatively played.
The third work was new, ‘Night Suite’, a set of three night studies by the pianist of the group, Prach Boondiskulchok, Thai in origin but long resident and studying here. Far Eastern influences were to be expected, but the work also showed considerable craftsmanship and a keen musical ear, not least a strangely haunting effect apparently produced by stroking the strings of the piano at various registers immediately behind the keyboard with the sustaining pedal held down. I would very much like to hear it again and I hope that its composer will be able to overcome the obstacle of his rather difficult name to reach a wider audience.
The concert ended with the piano trio version of Schoenberg’s exquisite Verklärte Nacht. Ingenious though the arrangement is, and to me it is certainly preferable to the version for full string orchestra which I find obscures the fine textures of the original, this version is not to me equal to, and certainly does not surpass, the original string sextet version. It was however, most beautifully played.
As ever, the pleasure of attending this concert was much enhanced by Philip Britton’s admirable programme notes, exactly what such notes should be: informative and descriptive of the music and its origins but with just enough technical detail to satisfy the music buffs without boring those with less technical knowledge. And a snip at just £1!