What a treat it was to hear not one but two Beethoven piano trios in the opening concert of Boston Concert Club’s 70th season – that anniversary, itself a cause for celebration, happens also to include the 250th since the birth of Beethoven. The well-established English Piano Trio were to play his masterpiece, op.97, known as the Archduke Trio, in the second half , but prepared us for that with earlier Beethoven and Haydn trios, pretty well contemporaneous, in the first. There was a somewhat uneasy friendship between these two. The much older Haydn labeled him a lazy student! What struck me particularly, listening to the set of nine short variations that complete the Beethoven op.11, were those characteristic uses of extreme dynamic contrast, sforzando and quirky rhythms. Its jolly, jaunty theme made me want to skip happily off at the interval (if only I could). Then to the Archduke! Such an advance. A glance at the score shows just how formidable a work it is. Gone the relative simplicity and compact nature of op.11. In op.97 the development of thematic material is taken to extremes , with mounting excitement!
That the English Piano Trio, Jane Faulkner violin, Timothy Ravenscroft piano and Pal Banda ‘cello are not given to extravagant body language I find admirable. Rather they play with the ease of the established and accomplished group they are and let the music speak for itself. There were occasions when I felt I would have liked more emphatic entries from the ‘cello, though it may be that this has more to do with the surroundings. The high raised but shallow stage at the Grammar School allows us see well but the performers and their sound seemed a little remote. Was it floating over our heads? A larger audience would surely improve the acoustic. Perhaps push the seating a little further back? The musician’s introductions were clearly enjoyed. Especially interesting was the story of the ‘cellist’s instrument with its possible link to Haydn. A serene encore, well deserved, finished our evening – well judged.
So let’s rejoice in the club reaching 70 years of concerts, enjoy the concerts to come and encourage others to join us. Thanks to the committee for giving us such a fine start to the season.