Monday 17th March

The Leonore Piano Trio: Tim Horton, piano; Benjamin Nabarro, violin and Gemma Rosefield, cello gave three sensational performances of highly contrasting masterpieces for piano trio at this the sixth and final concert of the 2013/14 season promoted by Aberdeen Chamber Music Concerts. Pianist Tim Horton has been a guest of ACMC with different ensembles on two previous occasions and his scintillating playing was the principal focus of the first piece in the programme, Haydn’s Piano Trio in C Major Hob XV no.27.

The first movement opened with a blistering upwards salvo on the piano, possibly one of the most astonishing openings of any piece. Tim Horton’s playing throughout the work had irresistible fluency and expressiveness. Violin and cello followed the piano in a series of passages that contrasted amazing delicacy and lightness with sizzling incisive intensity. The return of the opening statement featured at least one rather startling change of key at least that’s what it did in this performance. Haydn was surely out to surprise us – something he always loved to do and the Leonore Trio got it just right.

The second movement gave the violin a special moment in the spotlight but the piano soon dominated once again with stormy playing before the ensemble as a whole stamped their quality on the music.

The zesty finale had something of the teasing liveliness of a scherzo about it to begin with but as the movement continued in rondo sonata joviality, Tim Horton’s gutsy playing made an unstoppable torrent of notes pour forth from the Cowdray Hall piano – absolutely amazing!

The Leonore Trio have just released a CD of the Piano Trios of Anton Arensky and the next item in the concert was Arensky’s Trio No. 1 in d minor. Here was an opportunity for Benjamin Navarro and Gemma Rosefield to seize the spotlight. In the first movement they came in one after the other before duetting lusciously together. The piano was more of an accompanying instrument but would sometimes surge forward to project Arensky’s fine melodic writing.

The scherzo was tremendous fun suggesting in the light-hearted provocation of its waltz section more of Parisian sparkle than of Russian spirit and of course French culture was still important among the upper classes ofRussiaat this time.

At the start of the third movement, Elegia, the cello led the way and the strings were muted throughout. The piano sang out above whispering muted strings then later it was the violin that Arensky allows to sing out deliciously.

The finale began forcefully before memories of earlier music including a return of the muted strings and then remembrance of the opening melody led to a satisfying conclusion – altogether a delightful performance.

Even though it is an uncharacteristically dark and sombre work for this often cheerful composer, Dvořák’s Piano Trio in f minor op. 65 is a prodigious work and the Leonore Piano Trio gave it a splendidly affirmative performance. The quiet tense opening for the strings led to the dynamism of the piano playing which was defiant if not happy. The development led off by the cello was dramatic leading to a tightly controlled display of superbly fine ensemble playing.

The spirited rhythm of the second movement lifted the mood slightly with the piano in its upper register tinkling over whispering light and insistently rhythmic strings. Later the strings took centre stage.

The third movement Poco adagio was sad but intensely beautiful with fine playing from both cello and violin eventually duetting delightfully together. The piano theme had a sadness to it that seemed almost to be weeping at times.

Even the rhythmic intensity of the finale did not entirely shake off the sense of sadness running through this music but Dvořák was surely going to recover his spirits and of course many happier works were to follow such as the “American” String Quartet and the “New World” Symphony.

The Leonore Piano Trio review