Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us

Graffin-Wallfisch-Menuhin Trio
Philippe Graffin, Raphael Wallfisch, and Jeremy Menuhin
play Schumann, Ravel, Beethoven: Archduke Trio

Conway Hall, London 22 January 2006

I have been attending the venerable early Sunday evening concert series at South Place for some 60 years; not as often as they deserve.

They were launched in 1879 and in 1929 moved to their present home. Their roster of premieres goes back to the first Dvorak quartet cycle when they were all new! The statistics are astonishing and until not long ago they always told you how many previous performances there had been of each work.

Now, under the artistic direction of Peter Fribbins, there is a breath of fresh air in imaginative programming. The centre piece tonight was Ravel's wondrous Sonata for Violin and Cello, which was warmly received by a mainly elderly audience of long term loyalists, a canny choice for animated interval talk afterwards.

It has only comparatively recently been appreciated what an important work in Ravel's oeuvre this is. I could not agree with Philippe Graffin's introduction of it as 'minimalist' and that Ravel put in as many special effects for their own sake; they are well integrated into the structure as a whole and sound - with hindsight now - quite natural.

This new piano trio has perhaps not yet settled down, and I had mixed feelings about Schumann's G minor trio Op. 110. The two strong strings players are ideally matched, Raphael Wallfisch tending to be the dominant presence through the evening. Some reservations and uncertainties about the pianist son of an iconic father. Jeremy Menuhin was at times rather reticent and seemed to undercharacterise his part, also sometimes over-pedalling in this acoustic.

They will be tackling the other Schumann trios later in the series. Meanwhile, if you don't know them, I commend The Trio Jean Paul's 1999 Schumann/Rihm recording (Ars Musici AM 1241-2) - "an essential purchase for anyone interested in either composer or both - as here juxtaposed, each illuminating the other."

See also a notice of a recent performance in London of the Ravel Duo-Sonata, by Peter Sheppard Skærved and Neil Heyde.

© Peter Grahame Woolf