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Bartholdy Trio at Royal Academy of Music 11 February 2004
Beethoven Trio in D op 70 no 1; Saint-Saens Trio no 1 in F op 18
Ashley Wass (piano) Jesse Mills(violin) and Sarah Carter (cello)

Ashley Wass, first winner of the London Internationsl Piano Competition and subsequently admired on his Naxos debut CD (Cesar Franck),in recital at Wigmore Hall and in the City of London Festival, brought his own piano trio (with new strings colleagues) to London.

It must be a good thing for any young virtuoso pianist's development to engage actively in chamber music, and I was keen to hear this trio which was formed in USA at Marlboro. It was disappointing, because of mismatch between pianist and his colleagues, and crucially because of the pianist's dominance.

Balance was seriously awry throughout Beethoven's Ghost trio, only partly because the string players were unable to bring intensity or character to their playing; Wass was assertive as if he was playing a concerto in a large hall. Moving across to the keyboard side of the Duke's Hall, things were a little better for Saint-Saens Trio No 1, which I fear is nowhere near so interesting as No 2, heard recently at Conway Hall. Ashley Wass's fluency was welcome in the passage work, but again the string players failed to make their mark and the final result was lack lustre.

Balance problems are easily corrected on broadcasts and recordings, but live concert giving must remain central for a developing chamber group, and the moral is that it takes five to make a trio - three to play, a turner-over for the pianist, and an independent pair of critical ears to advise in rehearsals and at a preliminary run-through in an unfamiliar auditorium.

© Peter Grahame Woolf