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Frederic Rzewski's Piano Trio
The Lycydas Trio: Toby Tramaseur (violin) Caroline Szram (cello) Aleksander Szram (piano)


Bush Hall, Uxbridge Road, London 10 September 2006

There is no music quite like Frederic Rzewski's Piano Trio, completed in 1998 but never performed in concert until May 2006 in the Rzewski Festival at Trinity College of Music, London.*

Previous attempts to premiere it had foundered because of its complexity, and the composer was sceptical as to whether it would make it to the public platform in Greenwich. The young Lycidas Trio presented it there with aplomb, belying its difficulty, and a second performance (with a "copyleft" score to follow) confirmed my belief in its worth.

It may (should) prove to be a case like that of the late Beethoven quartets, deemed impossible at first, now normal recital fare.

Few contemporary music scores are so rewarding (and easy) to follow. It is clearly written and the main problem for a score-reader is to keep track of the constant tempo changes as the procession of fragments passes. The trio consists of ten sections of equal length (about two minutes), each of which also contains ten subsections, whose length varies from one to ten basic time-units (about two seconds per unit). Their inventiveness, wit and vitality shone out again, and not only should international piano trios be including the trio in their repertoires, but record companies ought to be vying to release a first commercial recording with the Lycidas Trio.

Aleksander Szram played also two solos, The Eemis-Stane Hommage by Michael Spencer (moving from extended techniques into normal keyboard playing, and included on Szram's CD Into the 21st Century fonorum 8003) and Danny Ledesma's a timeslide tango, a "corrupted tango" which brought to mind Yvar Mikhashoff's commissioned collection (q.v. Incitation to Desire).

And a word for Bush Hall itself; a hidden jewel in West London, a converted old Music Hall with good acoustics and well preserved plaster work which made a congenial venue for a convivial, well attended event.

* - - The real gem of the evening, which even the composer had never heard, was the Piano Trio (1998), a mozaic ("crazy quilt") of ten two-minute movements constructed with a Latin Square to bind its 'irrationality' together. Nothing polemical here; pithy, witty ideas persuasively presented by the excellent ex-Trinity Lycidas Trio; for me it is this which will be remembered from the week alongside The Road. Piano trios should be queuing up to perform it and it should fit well in the context of an ordinary chamber recital - -

© Peter Grahame Woolf