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Seen and Heard Recital Review

Schubert Trio Fontenay (Michael Mucke, violin; Jens Peter Mainz, cello; Wolf Harden, piano), Wigmore Hall, 1pm, Monday, February 14th 2005 (CC)

Schubert’s Second Piano Trio (E flat, D929, 1827) operates on a huge scale. It lasts around 50 minutes, is cast in four movements and really gives any piano trio the chance to show off its interpretative skills. Contemporaneous with Winterreise, there is the same feeling of a Master at work.

The Trio Fontenay, founded in 1980 (with one change of membership since – the cellist) is an excellent, young, ensemble. The Trio’s way with Schubert is such that the movement of one theme to the next in the first movement of D929 seemed entirely inevitable. The open spaces of the development (where sparse scoring makes for memorable listening) enabled the audience to enter an almost timeless world.

The theme of the slow movement is allegedly based on a Swedish folk melody. Jens Peter Mainz’s superbly lyrical, warm cello impressed here, as did the violin/cello dialogues. Moments of uncertainty after the involving climax, however, were unsettling in all the wrong ways, even if the concentrated lead-in to the coda all but erased memories of the slip.

The Trio Fontenay was fully at home in the delightful canons of the Scherzando third movement (a movement that lies somewhere between Minuet and Scherzo), while the tricky repeated-notes of the finale’s second theme posed no technical problems (pianist Wolf Harden being particularly impressive here, seemingly trying to invoke a cimbalom). The return of the slow movement’s theme was hugely effective.

A brave choice of repertoire, then. D929 requires high concentration from both players and audience, something not always readily available on a Monday lunchtime. That the performance was so successful is a tribute to the Trio Fontenay’s talent. I will be keeping an eye out for this ensemble in future.

Colin Clarke

Further listening:

Florestan Trio. Hyperion CDA67347
Trio Fontenay: Smetana & Chopin Piano Trios, Warner Apex 0907 40822-2; Beethoven Opp. 1 & 11, Warner Apex 2564 60364-2


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