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Brahms Op 87 & Schubert Eb Piano Trios

Callaghan Trio
Giovanni Guzzo violin Ashok Klouda cello Simon Callaghan piano

Conway Hall, South Place, London 20 November 2011

Simon Callaghan has had to deputise at short notice in several of the South Place concerts which he curates, and he has done so most impressively.

Tonight I have heard for the first time his own eponymous Piano Trio and, in interpretations of two major 19th C classics of the repertoire, it turned out to be a world class ensemble.

Op 87 is my favourite of the Brahms piano trios, and this group had the measure of it completely. The Schubert No 2 in Eb (1827), by contrary, has always seemed overlong and less successful than its more popular Bb companion.

Not so tonight - I relished it, repeats and all... The knowledgeable Conway Hall audience gave it a prolonged ovation which belied their modest numbers, and persuaded the musicians to give an encore; an even more mercurial account of the Brahms scherzo than first time - just right.

As an amateur keyboard player and follower of piano trios especially, from Cortot/Thibaud/Casals on shellac via Schnabel/Szigeti/Fournier in London 1947; the Beaux Arts over many years and latterly the Florestans, I can aver that this young group stands up against any of them.

All three musicians are assured and know each other and the works well. The are probably guided, always unobtrusively, by Callaghan at the piano; he is so comfortably in command of the pianistic difficulties, and for endurance in the Schubert, that he is able to keep in close contact with his colleagues.

The concert was being filmed from the gallery (where the music sounds best) and the Callaghan Trio's appearances on radio and record are keenly anticipated.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Schubert, Schulhoff & Tchaikowsky

Schubert: Fantasia in F minor for piano duet D940; Quartet in D minor D810 'Death and the Maiden'
Schulhoff: Five pieces for string quartet
Tchaikowsky: Quartet in D Op 11

Cliodna Shanahan & Simon Callaghan (piano duet)
Brodowski Quartet (David Brodowski, Catrin Win Morgan violins; Felix Tanner viola; Reinoud Ford cello)
- - “the brilliant Brodowski are a group to watch out for - - members originating from Germany, Wales, Scotland and England - based in London” The Independent.

(The scheduled Mendelssohn Octet with Trinity Conservatoire students failed to materialise...)            

Conway Hall 11th December 2011

A festive end-of-season concert, which attracted a fuller house than usual to Conway Hall (see the raffle prizes on stage...). If that was because the Mendelssohn had been announced, no-one will have been disappointed to have had the Tchaikovsky instead.

A "pre-concert" Schubert duo had Simon Callaghan taking the subservient primo place to Cliodna Shanahan'ssecondo (with the all-important control of the pedal !). She can also be seen above top as page-turner - at this concert, that important role was taken by pianist Hiro Takenouchi, who had featured earlier in this season and will do so again next year...

My picture [R] shows the Brodowskis' current line-up. I don't know how long cellist Reinoud Ford has been with them, but he made a strong and authoritative contribution throughout, fitting in perfectly (we had heard him as a member of the eight-cellos ensemble Cellophony a few days before - there seems to be an element of swings-and-roundabouts amongst British based chamber musicians, many of whom have to do a range of free-lance work to survive financially).

Apart from being amongst the best British-based (but international) quartets on the circuit, the Brodowskis are one of the most attractive groups to watch playing live. They move with the music, neither excessively nor contrivedly so; far better than e.g. the famous Borodin Quartet from whom we last heard a Tchaikovsky quartet*.

Spoken introductions were perfectly judged; Catrin Win Morgan told us about the financial imperative which caused Tchaikowsky to write his quartet, and she gave us the Death and the Maiden poem in English translation, then David Brodowski read it to us in the original German, to audience appreciation; all that contributes to audience rapport.

The Brodowskis' unanimity (doubtless hard rehearsed) appears to be instinctive, with the "leader" not appearing to lead. Had they played this programme together before? Whatever, a DVD from their repertoire would be welcome; pending that, some videos on YouTube?

Simon Callaghan opens next year's attractive series at Conway Hall with a Bach Partita before The Fibonacci Sequence's programme on 8th January 2012.

Peter Grahame Woolf

* [Borodin Quartet] - - perfectly rehearsed and accurate aural recreation of the scores, if without any visible or audible tension --unsmiling and undemonstrative in their playing - - the musicians sounded disconcertingly less involved - - etc