Concert Review

Guarneri Trio Prague Martinu, Smetana, Mozart, Mendelssohn. Blackheath Halls, 21 May 2000


The final concert of the very successful '99-'00 Sunday Mornings series brought back the Guarneri Trio, one of Europe's very finest piano trios. Tribute was paid to the retiring Artistic Director, Peter Conway, who had managed to turn around financial doom and threatened bankruptcy and helped to set the Halls well on their way to becoming one of the most important London concert venues, with loyal audiences and supporters.

All the members of the Guarneri Trio are first class soloists who have worked together since 1986 and have now intuitive rapport. The string players both play Guarneri instruments. Pianist Ivan Klansky has a wonderful way of balancing without needing to avoid playing loud and eschewing domination as appropriate. His pedalling helps to ensure clarity at all times, and he had no problems with the Bosendorfer, which some visiting pianists can't cope with easily. In the Mozart K564 he produced a totally different tone colour, absolutely appropriate for conveying the character of earlier music on a modern instrument. I wondered whether he might have been employing the little known, but legitimate, trick of using the often so-called 'soft pedal' depressed, but not in order to make the music quiet?

Whether so or not, his instrument was completely transformed for the later music. Mendelssohn's No 2 trio was full of fire and emotion, and after the interval we were regaled with two fine Czech trios, neither of them too well known. Martinu's No 3 has bubbling rhythmic drive and vitality in its fast movements, framing an intense slow movement with a powerful climax. Splendid music, and there are many more treasures to be unearthed from this prolific and accomplished composer; timely too, so soon after the rediscovery of the original version of Martinu's last opera, The Greek Passion at Covent Garden (see S&H review, April).

Smetana's trio is a poignant memorial to his daughter, who died at 4½. It incorporates feelings of rage against the ills of the world, as well as grief, and in the Guarneri's hands emerges as a masterwork of the genre. A meaty, full length programme before the celebratory reception to end the series, to which all were invited.

The Guarneri Trio Prague records for Supraphon and I can strongly recommend their Smetana CD, Supraphon 11 1515-2, and for something even more unusual, trios by Reicha, the late 18.C. contemporary of Beethoven, on Supraphon SU3024-2.

Xxxxxx Peter Grahame Woolf

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