FringeReview UK 2019
Ianist Antonio Oyarzabal, cellist Emma Besselaar, and violinist Nadine Nigl are a London-based Piano Trio. They played Frank Martin’s early (1925) Piano Trio on Popular Irish Folk Tunes, and Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor Op 67 from 1944.
Pianist Antonio Oyarzabal, cellist Emma Besselaar, and violinist Nadine Nigl are a London-based Piano Trio, on this evidence consummate international musicians.
They opened with a curtain-raiser of 15 minutes, Frank Martin’s early (1925) Piano Trio on Popular Irish Folk Tunes, a fresh-faced openly tonal post-impressionist work. It doesn’t hint so much at the later melodic bite and profundity of his later work, unlike the a cappella Mass of 1922. But there’s a fluent consonance about this piece, the tunes weaving throughout the allegro moderato, finding some stop and profundity as well as wistfulness in the Adagio, not a movement you’d expect, and then the Gigue like a Jig. The strings find the emotion and the whirling but light-textured piano accompaniment becomes slowly the driver.
Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor Op 67 comes from the darkest phase of the war for him, 1944. Just after the bleaker Symphony No. 8 a much more equivocal and hard-won work than the heroic Leningrad No. 7, this too is an elegy, but s personal one. Shostakovich’s closest friend Ivan Sollertinsky (1902-44) died of a heart attack before he could assume a professorship. Revered throughout Soviet Russia he defended Shostakovich in 1936, and narrowly avoided arrest. He broadcasted an address on Tchaikowsky’s 50th anniversary that was broadcast throughout the Union. He opened up Shostakovich to many influence sin their 17 years. Being Jewish, Shostakovich quoting Jewish folk music also evokes dance of death: the communal and personal merge.
The opening Andante is where the trio can enjoy the acoustics to start off pppp, with silvery figures on cello and violin, a ghostly haunted opening that bustles into some life. It’s the Allegro con Brio that really opens the exuberance shadowed with death that defines the finale. Here it’s terribly ambivalent. Is this the Jewish prisoner ordered to dance by Nazis, and is the finale thus inflected. It sounds exuberant though, youth remembered, the strings driving in unison against a piano figure like a refrain that never tires of itself.
The Largo though tend to drain everything. It’s superbly etiolated, something you can’t predict or quite pin down. Again the strings enjoy the low registers you can deploy in this church, and let them resonate with a filigree, never needing to sustain notes with more force from the bow.
The final Allegretto owns those melodies we hear quoted in the Quartet No. 8 from 1960, which being autobiographical, reinforce the personal in their melodic arc. The piano takes up that insistent, insidious melody that soon intensifies and speeds up. It explodes into a long development with a sustaining power that only gradually winds down into a coda taking us back to the opening.
This trio have remarkable strong sonorities, revel in generous acoustics and now how to fine down their response, Oyarzabal’s pianism owns a swing and crisp authority so contrast is never heavy nor skittering. Besselaar’s cello has a warmth and depth that anchors the trio, and Nigl’s expressivity again powers direction and emotional punch.
A superfine ensemble, who would be welcomed back to play such exciting repertoire.