How do you cope with the stress of being a City lawyer? Or a practising barrister? Or a teacher? Why, play the piano, cello and violin in St Nicolas Church, Abingdon on a cold Sunday afternoon and warm the hearts of your audience! The ACE Piano Trio performed two pieces; Beethoven’s ‘Piano Trio no. 6 in E Flat Major’ and Mendelssohn’s ‘Piano Trio no. 2 in C Minor’.
The Beethoven Piano Trio was innovative for its time because it strove to make all three instruments equal and indeed, all three instruments have their day in this piece.The first movement opens slowly with the cello, the violin joins in and then the piano enters, all smooth and graceful.The movement continues faster and fiercer but ends on a light note. The second movement also starts lightly and lyrically (reminiscent of Haydn – Beethoven had studied with this old master): every now and then a more demanding and forceful sound comes through, almost menacing at times, the two moods fighting to dominate. The third movement is in A flat – this is an early example of a work with movements in different keys. Here the lyricism returns, the three instruments playing gently with each other. The last movement is a bold statement of confidence and strength combined with beauty, ending on a very upbeat note. This piece was written in 1808, his so-called ‘middle period’: when his reputation became firmly established, although he was already having hearing difficulties.
In contrast, Mendelssohn wrote his ‘piano Trio no. 2’ only 2 years before his untimely death at the age of 38. This is not one of his better-known pieces, but it deserves to be.In the first movement, the restless phrases of the main theme are introduced by the piano, then echoed by the violin and cello, before the second theme is introduced as a duet with the violin and cello. The second movement is a Lied ohneWorte (Song without words): Mendelssohn wrote many of these for solo piano throughout his life, often for his talented sister Fanny, and indeed the movement starts briefly with just the piano before the violin and cello come in. The third movement is described by Mendelssohn himself as ‘a trifle nasty to play’ and indeed it would be hard to fit more notes in, all three instruments racing through the music as if they were being chased.Mendelssohn is said to have loved Bach’s music and this is reflected in the chorale tune that pervades the last movement.
The three players, Andrew Blankfield on the piano, Claire Parkin on the violin and Emma Chamberlain gave a wonderful performance which really did warm our hearts: their talent and their obvious enjoyment of the music were plain to see. The concert was April’s edition of the Abbey Chamber Concerts: a concert which takes place one Sunday each month in St. Nicolas Church, Abingdon and which, based on this performance, I would highly recommend.