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The quartet’s performance was dazzling

The Westmorland Gazette, Clive Walkley

A full house greeted the Gould Trio and Robert Plane on February 8. All four artists have visited Kendal before and their visits are always something to look forward to; their programmes are always interesting and their playing, of course, is first rate.

In a change to the programme order, the Trio began with Brahms’ turbulent Piano Trio no.3 in C minor. The bold opening was arresting with all three players immediately seizing the character of the first movement. Brahms’ marking in the score is Allegro Energico and, if anything defined their approach, it was the rhythmic energy that underpinned their playing throughout this movement.

The rhythmic precision achieved throughout was another impressive feature … In contrast to the first movement’s drama, the gentle lyrical second movement had all the grace and charm required to bring it to life and the last movement was again full of energy.

The reason for the change of programme order was revealed when Robert Plane returned to the stage with Lucy Gould and Benjamin Frith to play Chamber Folk Music for clarinet, violin and piano by the relatively unknown Hungarian composer Tibor Serly. After the intensity of Brahms, this work provided a delightful contract, based as it is on folk material from Serly’s native land. The characteristic rhythmic ‘snap’ and languorous melodies, both ever-present features of Hungarian folk music, were absorbed into this piece; also the improvisatory style of much of the writing – a reminder for anyone who has visited Hungary of the musicians who serenade diners in restaurants!

The work demands great virtuosity from all three players and the trio really captured the essence of this fun piece and communicated their enjoyment of it to us.

Serly’s trio formed a bridge between Brahms and Walter Rabl’s prize-winning Clarinet Quartet. The work suggested Brahms and Schumann; and there were echoes of Schubert too in the second movement – a set of variations on a tragic theme, the approach adopted by Schubert in his Death and the Maiden String Quartet. It is a delightful work that immediately captures one’s attention. So clearly structured is it that its thematic development is easy to follow even on a first hearing.

The quartet’s performance was dazzling, marked by complete technical control of rapid passage work, power and great variety of expression.

We can only hope for another visit by this fine group of players who gave us such delight in their chosen programme.

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28/05/2024