Leonore Piano Trio
July 12 2019
Theatre Royal, Nottingham
Review: William Ruff
A glowingly passionate opening to Nottingham’s Chamber Music Festival
The Nottingham Chamber Music Festival has a logo: half a violin and an arrow rather than a bow. Some will see a Robin Hood link. But others will see just how precisely aimed this arrow is and sense the creative energy behind its release.
The Festival is, of course, about the music – but there is also far more going on. Take this year’s opening event. Even before the Leonore Piano Trio (Benjamin Nabarro, Gemma Rosefield and Tim Horton) played a note it was clear where the Festival’s heart lies. The Theatre Royal’s Dress Circle foyer sounded and felt good, offering an oasis of cultural calm amid the city’s busyness. There were friendly words of welcome, tea and cake, highly accessible organisers and musicians. It’s not often instruments are introduced but when a cello happens to have been owned by the Prince Regent and when the inlaid ‘GR’ happens also to be the initials of the Trio’s cellist, that is worth knowing.
The Festival’s sense of adventure and discovery was clear from the outset. Just about no-one in the audience would have known Hubert Parry’s 1st Piano Trio. He’s a composer more-or-less ignored these days apart from one of two choral pieces. But this youthful music, composed when he was still working in the insurance business, made for an arresting start of the Festival weekend.
Anyone who thinks that chamber music is pale and polite should listen to the way Parry opens his Trio. The Leonores relished the passionate energy of the first movement, the three instruments entering a hairsbreadth apart as individuals before combining in unexpectedly intricate, often thrilling ways. This performance did more than dust off something dragged out of the cultural museum. The Leonore Trio used their virtuosity and insight to bring out the individuality in Parry’s musical personality. Yes, there was plenty of Brahms, Mendelssohn and Schumann in the mix – but the Trio’s handling of the opening movement’s urgency as well as the effervescent scherzo, the expansively lyrical slow movement and quirkily exhilarating finale will have made those present scratch their heads and wonder why this music isn’t better known.
With no time to get their breath back the Leonore Trio were straight into their programme’s other offering: the much-revised Piano Trio No 1 by Brahms. This is music which must flow in the Leonores’ arteries. It opens with one of the most majestic melodic inspirations to spring from the composer’s early years and the Trio made it sound magnificently dramatic. Another highlight was the serene opening to the slow movement with its long cello melody and the way the piano’s chorale-like phrases are answered by the two string instruments. The finale was excitingly handled too, the Leonores making the most of its wild eeriness.
Throughout their programme the Leonore Piano Trio injected their playing with authority and energy, capturing the ardently romantic glow of the music and launching the 2019 Festival in a spirit of passionate commitment.
Leonore Piano Trio (Benjamin Nabarro, Gemma Rosefield, Tim Horton)