Busch Trio, Chichester Chamber Concerts - review

Busch Trio
Busch Trio

REVIEW BY Peter Andrews

The popular and highly talented Busch Trio made a welcome return to Chichester on Thursday 7th November when they played before a large audience in the Assembly Room for Chichester Chamber Concerts.

They opened with the Sonatensatz D 28 by Schubert, also known as the Piano Trio in B flat major, a delightful work written when the composer was just 15. Inevitably owing much to Schubert’s then teacher, Salieri, it nevertheless already showed hints of the greater works that were to follow. This youthful work, lasting just under ten minutes, received a suitably sparkling performance from the Busch Trio with Omri Epstein’s delicate piano playing to the fore.

Much grittier fare was to follow. Shostakovich wrote his 2nd Piano trio, in E minor, Op 67 in 1944 and it is dedicated to one of his closest friends, the musicologist Ivan Sollertinsky who had just died. In his Classic FM Lifeline of the composer, Stephen Jackson describes the trio as “one of music’s noblest memorials.” It is indeed a heavily emotionally charged work. The doleful first movement featured violinist Mathieu van Bellen and cellist Ori Epstein playing eerie pianissimo harmonics above a bass piano, immediately establishing an air of melancholy. This slowly builds to an angry, powerful conclusion. The second movement is a violent scherzo infused with ironic, false humour. The third, a largo, starts with a series of solemn piano chords over which the strings play a plaintive Jewish melody. The final movement is a grotesque dance based on the Jewish song of death, emphasised by harsh pizzicato strumming on the stringed instruments. The Busch Trio gave us a totally compelling performance of great power and intensity that will live long in the memory.

The final work in this challenging programme was the more familiar but nonetheless technically demanding Trio in B flat Op.97, Archduke, by Beethoven. In this work Beethoven reached the pinnacle in the genre, not only in his own works but in the development of the piano trio up to that point. The first public performance of the trio, on 11 April 1814, was also the last occasion on which Beethoven, increasingly suffering from deafness, played the piano in public. The Busch Trio started the work at a brisker pace than is often the case emphasising the melodic aspects of the opening Allegro moderato and continued this momentum throughout the work producing a performance of exquisite musicianship and ensemble.

As an encore the Busch trio played the second movement of Mendlessohn’s Trio in D minor Op.49 with great sensitivity bringing the evening to a glorious conclusion. This was a totally engaging and enjoyable concert by performers who demonstrated both great musical understanding and perfect ensemble. The next concert in the series will be given by the renowned violinist Daniel Rowland and pianist Natacha Kudritskaya at the Assembly Room on Thursday 5th December.

Peter Andrews