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Cras, Martinu & Mozart

Cras String Trio (1926)
String Trio No.1 (1923)
Divertimento in E flat K. 563 (1788)

Lendvai Trio Nadia Wijzenbeek - Violin Ylvali Zilliacus - Viola Marie Macleod - Cello
Wigmore Hall 15 November 2009

String trios are disproportionately neglected in favour of string quartets and I was excited to have the opportunity to listen to three infrequently heard examples given by this esteemed ensemble. For me, the highlight of their enterprising programme was the String Trio (1926) of Jean Cras, sailor and composer, which proved to be a hidden gem, unknown even to the programme notes writer.

Cras spent much of his life in the French Navy, being eventually promoted to Rear Admiral and in this trio, composed aboard ship, one can detect influences of the Eastern and Celtic folk music he came across in his travels. Nadia Wijzenbeek handled these exotic melodies superbly, her silvery tone cutting through the texture. It was a shame that in the final movement the lower strings did not match the violinist’s articulation, muddying its rhythmic drive.

Martinu’s String Trio No. 1 (1923/2 - surprisingly its UK premiere) was a perfect companion for the Cras. Interestingly, Martinu had just relocated to Paris, where Cras had also studied. There were plenty of magical moments in the Lendvai Trio’s performance of this work, most notably the vibrato-less end to the Andante. The phrasing was exquisite throughout.

The Mozart Divertimento in E flat is a major work of his latter years, belying its title. Although competently played, it was a let down after the stunning first half. Mozart treats all three instruments as equals in constant dialogue with one another. This was a challenge for Lendvai trio as they do not have a unified sound. The violinist was dominant throughout, her tone at times rather too metallic for Mozart’s lyricism. In contrast cellist Marie Macleod produced a beautiful mellifluous tone; however her playing was not articulate enough for the acoustic and her semiquaver runs lacked clarity.
All in all it was a very enjoyable concert. and I look forward to hearing the Lendvai Trio's debut CD which is to be released soon.

Anna Michel

The Cras string trio is available on ANTES EDITION BM CD 31.9185 recorded by the Offenburg String Trio [Editor]