St George's, Bristol
The Gould Piano Trio's Beethoven series, celebrating their 20th anniversary year, reached its culmination with this concert of the composer's first and last works in the medium. The great arc from his Op 1 No 1 in E flat, to Op 97 in B flat, dedicated to Archduke Rudolph, actually spans less than 20 years. Prefaced by a single, even earlier, E flat movement with its own charm, the concert charted perfectly Beethoven's transition from the young lion and brilliant pupil of Haydn, to mature master. More remarkably still, the trauma of Beethoven's transition into deafness is sublimated in the very last Trio.
Part of the wonder in the Goulds' profoundly musical performance was the fluctuating balance they found between the natural intimacy of the trio and the massive scale of Beethoven's approach to structural form. The players' shared understanding found them moving easily between subtle understatement and emphatically resonant delivery of the composer's most dramatic articulations.
After pointing up the incipient genius in the first Trio, whose spirited finale so boldy flags the way forward, the last Trio, the "Archduke", was an even more masterly interpretation. The first movement was treated as an elegant Schubertian expanse, while the dark, shadowy aura of the Scherzo's chromatic trio, and the surging crescendo into its outburst of rich chords, were made to sound utterly logical.
Cantabile playing – beautiful singing tone – is fundamental to the Goulds' style, and this was most apparent in the slow movement, its variations unfolding gently and majestically. Hats off to violinist Lucy Gould, cellist Alice Neary and pianist Benjamin Frith, but the honour was threefold. This was compelling playing, with every note voiced to carry its true functional and emotional weight, as the live recording will surely confirm.
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