What better way to spend a Sunday than with some chamber music performed at the highest level? This is a lovely litle programme ("Auftakt" means "Prelude," or "Upbeat" in teh musical sense. so I hope there's more to come!). Here, two towering masters of the Austro-Germanic tradition sandwich a fascinating piece by Hans Gál. And our guides are the members of the Trio Vision: Dorothy Khadem-Missagh. piano; Eketerina Frolova, violin; Peter Somodarl (cello).
The disc is released on the label ORF (Austrian Radio, Cat. No. CD 3248) and is released in cooperation with Ms Khadem-Missagh's own Beethoven Spring Music Festival. It was recorded in July/Aug 2020 in the studios of the ORF Radio Kulturhaus, Vienna.
We have here three composers intimitely associated with Vienna: Beethoven (born in Bonn in 1770 but very strongly based in Vienna), Brahms and Hans Gál (who was born just ouside of Vienna but settled in England, later living in Scotland). The three members of the Trio Vision are all linked to Vienna, too, three Vienna-based performers of teh highest calibre.
The booklet essay, "Spreingtime in Vienna" announces that thsi is a disc of firsts) (ncluding the fact ths is Trio Vision's first recording, and indeed we begin with Beethoven's Op. 1. Not his first composition by any means (remember those WoOs - Werke ohne Opus?) but the first to make it to print.
Beethoven's Op. 1 was a set of three piano trios, and here wer hear the first, in E flat-Major. We're a long way from the E flat-Major of the "Eroica" Symphony (in the same key) - the spirit of E flat is there in the sheer vivacity of the first movement:
There's a lovely sense of flow to the Adagio cantabile:
Trio Vision's shaping of the Trio of the third movement is wonderful, while pianist Dorothy Khadem-Missagh demonstrates a lovely light touch in the outer sections, as she oes in the fluidity of runs in teh finale - a place where the spirit of chamber music between the three musicians is complete joy:
The piece by Hans Gál (1890-1987), Variations on a Viennese Heurigen Melody (its title referring to the popular "Heurigen" wine taverns found in Vienna's suburbs) offers the perfect contrast. It also fits perfectly in the programme here: Gál wrote a dissertation on Beethoven, while his composition professor was a close friend of Brahms'!. Gál's musical language offers the perfect contrast to the Beethoven: a bit of spice, a sense of Viennese enjoyment in the Beethoven form (of which both Brahns and Beethoven were masters), plus a sense of Viennese dance - this last beautifully, wistfully, projected by Trio Vision. And listen out for the witty final gesture:
The Brahms is a warm, expansive performance but, crucially, one in which we continuously appreciate Brahms' inventiveness, and his harmonic daring. There's no luxuriating for the sound's sake alone: the Trio Vision are as attuned to Brahms' harmonic and linear workings (remember Schoenberg's admiration for Brahms!) as they are to a core Brahms sound. From that standpoint, this performance is both prfound and refreshing - quite an achievement. And lest that leaves you thinking there is no passion involved, listen to the arching lines of the Scherzo:
In contrast, a reminder that no-one does lullaby-like tenderness better than Brahms - and listen to how Trio Vision realise those held-breath, goassamer textures and how later the atmosphere is positively rapt, One ccan imagine this as a live performance with a perfectly silent Wiagmore Hall audience:
Listening to that opening, one can see (or should I say hear?) why the booklet subtitle for the Brahms is "Johannes Brahms: The High Art of Artlessness".
Perhaps just worth highlighting the excellence of pianist Dorothy Khadem-Missagh in thsi finale: the piano part is pretty fiendish and she maintains clarity at all times while still performing with unbridled passion - a passion matched by her chamber music partners on violin and cello. So nice to hear high violin in tune (Eketerina Frolova), with Peter Somodarl an impeccable cellist - not too assertive, and the many passages in which Brahms pairs violin and cello find the two of them positively joined at the hip.
The infectious enthusiasm of youth shines through this disc, a disc full of insight and wonder.