Pomegranate Piano Trio

Concert date: 7 January 2018
Reviewed by: JRC

Pomegranate Piano Trio after their NADSA concert at The Courtenay Centre with sponsor-representatives John and Svetlana Pike for the Claude and Margaret Pike Trust

A progression of styles and composers from the 18th and 19th centuries was The Pomegranate Piano Trios’ programme for their Nadsa concert last Sunday afternoon. We experienced the keyboard centred style of Haydn, the full bodied Beethoven, and the unleashed emotion of Smetana.

Haydn is usually fun, and this rendering of his Trio in E flat Hob XV29 was great. Pianist, Andrew West, led with a light and spirited touch, his phrasing adapting superbly to the more soulful andantino second movement and the concluding presto allemande. Fun indeed.

Next, breaking with chronology, we heard Smetana’s Trio in G minor Op15. This was written in 1855, immediately after the death, from scarlet fever, of his four year old eldest daughter. Its first performance in Prague was not well received, and we owe it to Liszt that this piece was subsequently played in Germany and Austria, and is now accepted as Smentana’s first masterpiece. Fenella Barton, violin, gave us a bold entry to a movement that was full of drama and emotional grief. The second movement, recollections of times past, was the whole gamut from joy and drama (tinged with melancholy and lament) to grief; but never in this performance lapsing into sentimentality: a fine line to tread. The triumphal finale was memorable, not least for Rebecca Hepplewhite’s warm rich and sensitive cello line: a huge contrast to the presto movement’s frequent frenetic episodes. This was a superb portrayal of the contrasts of grief that many of us know so well. The audience was rapt.

After the interval we returned to hear the ‘Archduke’ Piano Trio in B flat Op.97. It was with this grand work of statuesque proportions that Beethoven lifted the piano trio-form to a near symphonic status. The four movements allowed Pomegranate to display a great range of skills, from heart-touching in the third movement to breathtaking excitement in the finale. How fortunate we were to hear a live performance of the ‘Archduke’; an experience Beethoven’s deafness made impossible for him to have. It was again a near capacity audience for the fourth in the series of Nadsa concerts sponsored by Austins Department Store.