Music Review: Trio Gaspard at Djanogly Recital Hall

Words: Tim Hills
Photos: Andrej Grilc
Thursday 16 November 2023
reading time: min, words

Founded in 2010, Trio Gaspard are one of the most sought after Piano Trios and are regulars at the Wigmore Hall and a host of famous European venues; this year, they also performed at the BBC Proms. They are currently involved in a project to record all of Joseph Haydn’s Piano Trios for their record label, Chandos, and have commissioned several modern composers to write Piano Trios as companion pieces for their recordings. Haydn’s Piano Trios are personal favourites of Tim Hill's, so he was very keen to hear them at Djanogly Recital Hall...

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Trio Gaspard began the evening with Joseph Haydn’s Trio No 22 in A. Hob.XV:9. It is immediately obvious that here are three highly skilled musicians who have worked brilliantly well together for a number of years, thoroughly enjoying each other’s musical company.

The Haydn piece is described by Mike Wheeler, in the programme notes, as “one of only three of Haydn’s 46 Piano Trios to open with a slow movement." The Trio create a floating, cloud like, atmosphere with phrases seeming to shimmer in and out of focus. Showing impressive control and interplay, the three musicians work brilliantly well together.

Jonian introduced their second piece, Elegy for Piano Trio, Op23, by the Czech composer Josef Suk, explaining that Suk was originally a pupil of Dvořák and later became his son-in-law. This six and a half minute piece was inspired by views of Prague castle.

The music seemed cold and austere to start with, but was soon warmed by the tones of the Cello. The music ebbs and flows as though the Castle is appearing and disappearing in the mist, the Sun burning through at the end.

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The third piece returned us to Haydn. Jonian explained that after the gentle atmosphere of the first Haydn piece the Trio wanted a contrast so chose this more austere and challenging piece. With some surprising changes of tone and key and was handled with ease by the Trio.

The huge dynamic changes were calmly controlled. It reminded me of some of the Middle era Beethoven that can be bewildering in its complexity. However, in the hands of Trio Gaspard, you always feel you know where the music is going, even if you aren’t quite sure how it will get there. The Trio have a lot of fun with the final movement, with lots of call and response and smiles from the players.

After the interval they returned to play us Antonín Dvořák’s Piano Trio in E Minor, Op90, ‘Dumky’. This is a very dense piece of writing. A narrative Ballad, with many varied changes in pace and dynamics, like someone tinkling glasses one moment and then kicking pots and pans around the kitchen next.

All the volume and speed changes were handled deftly by the Trio; no one is left behind or gets ahead of the others. Their timing is impeccable. Here and there we enjoy echoes of his ‘new world symphony’. Without such skilful playing the piece would be difficult to follow but here we are all swept along with the narrative.

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At the end, the applause is enthusiastic, sustained and well deserved. Three returns to the stage before they play an Encore. Nicholas explains that their encore will be the British premiere of Kit Armstrong’s Revêtements.

This is one of the pieces commissioned by the Trio for inclusion with their Haydn recordings. A very exciting piece. In the hands of most Trios this could become a discordant mess, here however, it becomes a discordant adventure.

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable evening with probably the best Piano Trio I have ever seen. I will be watching and waiting for them to return to Nottingham.

Trio Gaspard performed at Djanogly Recital Hall on 9 November 2023


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