Monday 5th December 2016

The Kapten Piano Trio was formed in 2011 at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland where they were chosen as Young Artists in Residence. The pianist Kristi Kapten comes from Estonia, violinist Rachel Spencer from West Yorkshire and the cellist Duncan Strachan is from the West Highlands of Scotland via St Mary’s Music School in Edinburgh. Their concert on Monday, the third in the series promoted by Aberdeen Chamber Music Concerts was up to the standard of every concert in the series so far – in fact it was exceptional.

The performance began with Mozart’s Piano Trio in G Major K564. What was instantly apparent was the amazingly light and fluent piano playing of Kristi Kapten. Her hands seemed to just float over the keys. Rachel Spencer’s violin playing brought a special brightness to the blend and in this piece Duncan Strachan’s cello added marvellous light touches especially in this opening movement.

The piano was certainly the star of the second movement, a theme and variations. It most often led off not just the theme itself but several of the variations too. The strings topped it off nicely and had their moments especially the warm cello.

The finale, Allegretto, was a kind of skipping dance with the piano leading once again and with the cello having a starring role in both of the last two movements.

Ravel’s Piano Trio in a minor is a marvellous piece with so many contrasting themes and textures. The opening movement began with an ethereal blend of instruments. It then changed to a lively mood followed by a dreamy passage. There were so many changes of mood in this movement, moments of sumptuousness, explosions then quietness and the Kapten Trio captured all such sensations beautifully.

The second movement marked assez vif was not just fast it was splendidly pointed too in this performance. The programme note refers to the orchestral intensity of the music in the final movement but in this second movement Ravel’s writing also has an orchestral quality about it. He was you will remember an expert in the art of orchestration – Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition for instance.

The third movement Passacaille marked très large had Spanish overtones something that seemed to interest Ravel. This music had a passionate darkness starting with deep playing from piano and cello. The violin brought in a ray of sunshine before the music darkened to end the movement as it had begun.

The final movement had a decided oriental touch to it and the lovely transparent playing of the Kapten trio brought out that feeling to perfection.

If their performance of the two works in the first half was exceptional, the second half went way beyond that. This was Schubert’s magnificent Piano Trio No. 2 in E flat Op. 100 D929. Duncan Strachan introduced it as a truly monumental work and that indeed it was.

The opening movement is in sonata form but the development section is very much in the romantic tradition more like a set of expansive variations. The piano part was amazing as played by Kristi Kapten. Descending scales on both hands were perfectly synchronised. Much of the piano writing was reminiscent of the piano parts for Schubert’s songs. Twice at least I was reminded of Erlkönig

The second movement has one of Schubert’s loveliest tunes for piano and cello. I had a version of it in a piano book when I was a young boy

The Scherzando was certainly perky, cheeky even and I loved the way in which Duncan Strachan communicated with Rachel Spencer in putting this music across with a smile.

The final movement was magnificent with virtuoso playing from every member of the Trio. The return of the song theme from the second movement on cello really hit the spot in this fabulous performance.

Kapten Piano Trio Review