The Ripple Effect

Schubert at St Andrews

The Ripple Effect

Saturday 3 June 2016, 3pm, St Andrews on The Terrace, Wellington

A personal opinion from Stephen Gibbs

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Piano Trio ‘Notturno’, D.897 – Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Piano Quintet in A Major ‘The Trout’, D.667 – Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

Anna van der See, violin
Chris van der Zee, viola
Jane Young, cello
Richard Hardie, double bass
Rachel Thomson, piano

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The Notturno was a prequel for the main ‘event’ – but it was eloquent, affective and emotive.  The piece is in a rondo form: the ‘A’ sections were calm with a tender, heartfelt song-like quality; the B and C sections were fierce and impassioned. Rachel’s arpeggiated piano was delicate and sensitive. The perfectly homophonic violin and cello lines from Anna and Jane were so matched that they were almost one instrument.

The main part of the programme was the famous ‘Trout’ Quintet. The addition of the bass freed the cello to have a more melodic function, and Jane relished this role.

The joyful first movement was a delight. The combination of the violin and the viola was engaging and the piano was sparkling and crisp. The ensemble is not an established group and the balance was not so good – the cello and bass were not loud enough and the acoustic of the hall meant that the 1st violin had a ringing tone in her upper register. But that was an aberration and the balance improved with each bar in the performance.

The second movement was exquisite – the viola and cello combined beautifully with a tender, calm melody. The third movement was a joyful, cheeky number – with offbeat sforzando accents. Clearly the players were enjoying this movement with grins emerging every once in a while.  The movement was a Scherzo and Trio and the cello and bass came to life with a vivacious motif.

The fourth movement was a Theme and Variations – you can see my opinion of that in the last blog. But, I suppose, the nickname of the ‘Trout’ Quintet came from this movement and the theme was a Schubertian one. My favourite variations were the third and fifth:  in the third variation the cello and bass have the theme with the running piano flashing past;  the fifth one has a minor tonality from the cello. I liked the way that the variations molded into the next, and the ensemble’s allargando at the final cadence was perfect.

The last movement was very well played. Rachel excelled herself – I suspect that there is many more notes in the piano part than all of the string combined!  I have seen this movement played more slowly, but this up-beat tempo was bold – explosive and audacious!  The audience responded appropriately.

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I applaud the efforts by Marjan van Waardenburg and Richard Greager for bringing this weekend of music: assembling five concerts of the incomparable music by Franz Schubert, performed by some of the finest soloists and chamber musicians in the capital. The weekend was sublime.  They had weekends in 2010 and 2011 too  – I hope they will be encouraged to mount some more in future years.

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