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Schumann & Mozart

Schumann Piano Trio No 2 Op.80
Mozart Piano Trio K542

Christian Tetzlaff
Tanja Tetzlaff
Leif Ove Andsnes

Wigmore Hall, 22 September 2009

Tetzlaff and Andnes have worked together as a duo over the years but they haven't gelled as a trio, though sister Anja, a strong cellist, was no way to be faulted.

The Schumann No.2 was characterised in the programme note as "sunny and relaxed" (the indefatigable house writer, Misha Donat, quoting the composer's words). Well, if so, I couldn't face No 1 to come - "dark and dramatic"...

The players went for high voltage energy and the beginning was gripping, but soon it palled and became apparent that few decisions had been taken. Piano trios depend mostly on the pianist; Andnes played heavily and insensitively on the Wigmore Steinway, but the strings were not to be outdone. He conveyed no clear view about colour or articulation, and pedalling made for a general blur. Things were no better with Mozart; it sounded as if the whole Historically Informed Performance movement had passed Leif Ove by?

By contrast, at Kings Place last week "the Eisenstadt Trio was superb throughout. Leading from the piano, Harald Kosik made his Steinway sound remarkably like an 18th-century fortepiano".

Schumann's piano trios used to be outside the "canon" and infrequently programmed. The Florestans at Cheltenham made me change my mind: Schumann's No 3 made a strong case for a place in the canon of chamber music masterpieces. It follows a path which is not formalised and circumscribed, with episodes of fantasy and outbursts of energy. Difficult to hold together its coherence - - performances by the Florenstans in Cheltenham (they have recorded it on Hyperion CDA67175) and by the Trio Jean Paul in Lucerne last year and on CD, stick obstinately in the mind; the latter's CDs, coupling Schumann with Schumann-inspired Rihm trios, should be sought out (Ars Musici AM 1241-2).

It was a dispiriting hour of music and I didn't remain for a second "darker" Schumann piano trio. This new celebrity trio (no name yet) was being recorded by BBC for transmission on R3, probably in December.

Meanwhile, do try to hear Susan Tomes with her colleagues, and Trio Jean Paul.

Peter Grahame Woolf