Chimera string trio concert at Ilminster Arts Centre on Friday 21 June
The recently formed string trio, Chimera, gave an enthusiastic audience at Ilminster Arts Centre a rare chance to hear works in a genre generally neglected by classical composers on Friday 21 June.
Opening with two unfinished works by Schubert and Sibelius, moving on to a serenade by Bartόk’s rather overshadowed Hungarian contemporary, Dohnányi, Chimera closed the concert with one of Beethoven’s great early works, the first of his three Opus 9 trios.
Fenella Humphreys, violin, Rebecca Jones, viola, and Vladimir Waltham, cello, were delightful in their enthusiasm of this concert. Occasionally the violin tone lacked depth compared with that of the other players, but Fenella did find in the Schubert his unique quality, a ‘lightness of being’ that allowed us to forget for a moment life’s trials and tribulations. Following Schubert with the only completed movement of Sibelius’s early string trio in G minor was a masterstroke; the Sibelius, formidably bleak in its descending phrases, is balanced, it is true, by swirling rising sequences. Was he trying to emulate a technique used by Tchaikovsky or even Wagner?
A real find was Dohnányi’s five-movement Serenade in C major: these already experienced young players brought authority to its many facets – a romance in which Rebecca excelled, a scherzo, a theme and variations and a rondo finale. In the opening march we were struck by the richness of the chords. Like parts of the Sibelius, it seemed we were in the presence of at least five players.
String trios are not string quartets pared down; they are written by significant composers, from Mozart’s amazing E flat Divertimento onwards, with an ear for resonance and suggestion. After all, even in single lines, Bach’s solo violin sonatas and cello suites can conjure up rich harmonies. The Adagio in the Beethoven, like the slow movements of some of his early piano sonatas, reaches towards a profound depth, though Fenella’s part in her search for greater expression belonged, for my taste, to a generation beyond the end of the 18th Century. In the scherzo’s second trio it was Vladimir who, as the strongest player throughout, had his opportunity to shine as a soloist.
There’s more Beethoven in the next concert in the series on 12 July at Ilminster Arts Centre, featuring a return of the highly talented cellist, Benjamin Gregor-Smith, and his new pianist from Switzerland, Aglaia Graf.
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