It was with great pleasure that this Trio was welcomed back to Leicester to open the Lunchtime Winter Season for 2019/2020. In their previous visit in 2017 they had shown in no uncertain terms the quality of their playing. Their sound has a richness and warmth of timbre which linked to the tremendous drive and enthusiasm of their interpretations ensures a compelling experience for any audience. Mind you, as I note from a comment made by the cellist of the Trio, Marie Macleod, on their last visit, they are only too aware of the comparative paucity of top class music in the String Trio form.
That remark came to mind as one listened to their spirited playing of Julius Rontgen’s String Trio No.10 . They clearly found it great fun to play, giving full rein to the music’s rhythmic thrust and energy. It was clearly music which the composer intended players to enjoy. However, for this listener at least its continual echoes of Brahms only served to underline the limitations of the composer’s capacities. The music was accomplished, continually busy, every now and again searching for but rarely finding the rich lyrical vein present in the older composer’s output. Everything seemed so short winded . Alas, it all showed what a gulf lies between music that ticks all the ‘correct’ boxes of the time and music in which there is a distinctive voice. I am afraid that I found the latter almost totally absent in this work.
That was certainly not the case in the short work that followed, Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s The Ogre Lover. This seemingly came from the reading of Ted Hughes’ last great group of poems Birthday Letters (and in particular the poem Fairy Tale) in which, after enduring spiteful attacks over 30 years from some feminist groups for his supposed role in bringing about his wife Sylvia Plath’s suicide, he broke his silence with some of the most heartrending poetry in the language. I was intrigued by the composer seemingly having said that she ‘ simply had fun’ in composing this work, though it was in the context of her having immediately prior to this completed a large scale work. The Hughes is a collection of poems that has stood on my bookshelf since its publication, alas,rarely now read because I find it such a painful read . In Fairy Tale the poet imagines his wife having a palace of 49 chambers, only one of which he has failed enter , echoes of Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle! At the end of the poem he prises the final door open and enters, at which
The forty-ninth chamber convulsed
With the Ogre’s roar
As he burst through the wall
nto his abyss.I glimpsed him
As I tripped
Over your corpse and fell with him
Into his abyss.
Whatever, the composer in the finished work in a short space of time for me vividly created the world of the poem, the frustration and the mounting desire of the poet to share this hidden place with his wife, to open the last door, perhaps in the more lyrical centre of the work the love he feels for her, a mood shattered in the savage scherzo, to be followed by the feeling of disintegration at the end of the work. The passionate playing helped make it a telling aural experience. On this evidence this is another contemporary composer deserving performance.
Lastly came Erno Dohnanyi’s Serenade. This was also a work I had never heard before and like the opening work seemed clearly within the orbit of Brahms . Well, so it was, and so it wasn’t because this music came over as having a real individuality, delightfully deft in its rhythms, witty and at times memorably lyrical. The main tune of the 4th movement, for instance, I found startlingly beautiful. In total I thought it all sufficiently memorable to suggest my looking for recordings of the work . It was also a fine ending to an intriguing concert. Hopefully we will hear the Lendvai Trio again before too long.
The Bardi Orchestra is playing Bruckner’s mighty 4th Symphony at the DMH this Sunday at 3.30 p.m.
The next visitors to the Museum are the fine Elias Quartet on October 17th 1.00 p.m . The programme includes Schubert’s Rosamunde Quartet.