Tuesday 25 April 2023

Beethoven, Beach & Ravel: the Fidelio Trio at Conway Hall

Amy Beach
Amy Beach

Beethoven: Ghost Trio; Beach: Trio in A minor; Ravel: Trio in A minor; Fidelio Trio; Conway Hall Sunday Concerts
Reviewed 23 April 2023

Magical textures, civilised dialogue, passionate intensity & very present playing in a typically imaginative programme from the Fidelio Trio

On Sunday 23 April 2023, the Fidelio Trio (Darrah Morgan, Tim Gill, Mary Dullea) performed at Conway Hall's Sunday Concerts in a programme of Beethoven's Piano trio in D 'Ghost', Amy Beach's Trio in A Minor and Ravel's Trio in A minor

Beforehand, I gave a pre-concert talk that introduced Amy Beach and her music. She is a fascinating figure, an auto-didact who very much created her own path. Even during her lifetime, her music was regarded as old-fashioned in some circles, but perhaps we are now able to put her in perspective.

The Fidelio Trio began with Beethoven's Ghost Trio, the opening movement combining a feeling of civilised passion with a sense of impulsive movement. Both Morgan and Gill played the main theme with a lovely sense of line, and as the movement developed we felt a sense of communal passion. The slow movement began with a real feeling of being haunted, this was definitely the 'Ghost' trio. For all the movement's fragmentary nature, there was a feeling of constant tension, of anticipation, something about to happen. Performances were very present, and the result was terrific. The finale was witty yet serious, full of vitality and sprightly rhythms despite the serious tone, and an ending full of verve.

Amy Beach's Trio dates from 1938 when the composer was in her 70s. A fine pianist herself, the piano part in the trio was significant and complex, yet there was never a sense that this was a mini piano concerto, the other two instruments were equally to the fore. There seemed to be hints of Rachmaninoff in the first movement, particularly the opening with its passionate cello and flowing piano arpeggios. The sound world was unashamedly romantic, yet not always lush and Beach's harmonies could be distinctive, not always doing what you might expect. The players were uniformly intense in their presentation of the music, bringing out its underlying passion. There was a hint of folk music in the slow movement both in terms of melody and lively rhythms, along with some lovely rich harmonies. The faster sections were completely delightful and the whole was full of character. The finale was wonderfully urgent, the folk hints here almost shading into something jazzier, the whole given a passionate vitality by the players.

The evening finished with Ravel's Trio, this might be a relatively early work but it is full of lovely things and Ravel's handling of the trio textures is wonderfully evocative and sophisticated. The irregular rhythm of the opening movement highlighted the music's dance element. The players brought a real immediacy to their performances whether the eruption of intense passion or the moments that time stood still, all leading to a really magical ending. Throughout, the players brought balance and transparency to the sophisticated textures of the piece, whilst never neglecting passion and intensity. The perky scherzo-like movement was full of swift changes of mood, vital and vivid with a lovely fluidity. The slow movement opened with a dark, spare piano and soulful cello. It moved from the stately, yet flowing towards something more passionate and intense. The playing in the finale was wonderfully vital, yet the textures were transparent and fluid.

We were treated to an encore, composer John White's arrangement of Satie's Prière pour le salut de mon âme from his Messe des Pauvres

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