This year, Seraphim Trio performs the complete works of Schubert for piano trio. The program presented in the Salon of the Melbourne Recital Centre comprised four works. A late change in the order of the program served to highlight different aspects of Schubert’s compositions, but the major work, the “Trout” Quintet, retained pride of place after interval. So the program comprised:
Piano Trio in B-flat, Sonatensatz
Notturno in E-flat, D.897
Adagio and Rondo Concertante in F for Piano Quartet, D487, and
Piano Quintet in A, D.667 “The Trout”
Seraphim Trio – pianist Anna Goldsworthy, violinist Helen Ayres and cellist Tim Nankervis were joined by violist Jacqui Cronin and bassist David Campbell for the major work.
Although “The Trout” was probably the main attraction for audience members, they could not have been dissatisfied with the works that opened the program. Representing earlier works in Schubert’s sadly brief life, they were infused with musicality, and relatively free of the sadness of his later compositions.
The first work in Seraphim’s Schubertiade program for 2016, Piano Trio in B-flat, Sonatensatz, harked back to last year’s Beethoven concerts, with its homage to classical form. It was however very melodic and gave many opportunities for the players to show their synchronicity including in nicely judged rests. The violin and piano “duets” recalled Mozart but the cello had its own sonority, with all three heard to advantage in the lovely climax.
Next came Notturno in E-flat, D.897, introduced with broken chords on the piano and strings in harmony. Although it was in 4/4 time it had the air of a waltz or perhaps a landler (a form Schubert favoured). The pizzicato cello lent a delicacy to the violin’s melody as the piano again produced those lush broken chords. The second subject felt like a variation, not always nocturne-like, as it was at times loud and forceful. The ending, with its slower, sweet lush melody and piano trills had a quiet ending – again, in perfect sync.
Finally Adagio and Rondo Concertante in F for Piano Quartet, D487 gave a hint of the major work yet to come, with its sonority and sprightly piano. At times Anna Goldsworthy was given the opportunity for virtuoso performance but the others – including viola player Jacqui Cronin – were worthy accompanists as the pianist’s arpeggios led to a dramatic finish.
As for Piano Quintet in A, D.667 “The Trout”, it was a memorable performance of a well-known work. David Campbell played the double bass, contributing much to the resonance of the piece. There were dynamic contrasts from the first movement followed by a burst of sound from the ensemble. The beautiful andante saw all five players taking turns in being “soloists”. The scherzo presto had an emphasis on speed from the outset but still featured contrasting dynamics. A viola/violin duet lent interest.
The best-known movement is of course the theme and variations, based on the famous Schubert song of the same name. It is important that the music seems to spring from the pages and not be taken too fast. This was a respectful treatment which gained impetus with the first variation (thanks largely to Anna Goldsworthy). But the upper strings were to have the bulk of the work as the violin led into a variation with very light hearted articulation of the theme and others followed.
As throughout the evening the ensemble was well co-ordinated through until the finale, which was like an energetic folk dance, restrained at first but bursting out joyfully as the strings bowed furiously. It was the piano that led the other instruments to a satisfactory conclusion, with the music seeming to spring from the page. Perhaps, given the apt name of this Trio, I should say that the music seemed to take wings.