This concert was a wonderful way to spend a Sunday morning. It was the first of the Sitkovetsky Piano Trio’s coffee-morning concerts – “Coffee Classics” – in which they gave a passion-fuelled performance of Brahms’ Piano Trio no. 2 in C major, and Smetena’s Piano Trio in G minor. As a piano trio, the three have won many awards, and quite rightly so, as their presence on stage is collectively brilliant. St George’s as a venue in Bristol often astounds with the talent that walks on to the stage. The performers entered the hall with an air of experienced yet humble musicians who had a yearning to push that experience and develop their skills even further. That passion for music is the very passion that was required to play the morning's selected programme. On first glance at the repertoire, it could have been a heavy performance for a Sunday recital, had it not been performed by the right musicians.

The Sitkovetsky Trio
The Sitkovetsky Trio

Violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky, whom the trio is named after, stood up and introduced both of the pieces to the audience, explaining their structure and mood. Both pieces are emotionally outspoken, and the Sitkovesky Piano Trio were not afraid to let that show in their interpretation of the scores. Smetana’s Piano Trio in G minor is the only piano trio he ever wrote. It was written in 1855 to express how he felt when his daughter, with whom he had a terribly close relationship, passed away at the mere age of four. The music speaks of the frustration, anguish and sadness experienced when losing a loved one.

Performing such an array of emotions in a short space of time is by no means an easy feat, but the Sitkovetsky Piano Trio handled it with an inspirational amount of depth. It was clear that every subtle sentiment had been addressed in the rehearsal and brought into the performance. The performers carried the weight themselves, allowing the audience to feel the different moods in the music, but still maintaining control of their expression, manipulating each and every note.

Often in a piano trio, due to the mechanism of striking the string, the piano can feel like the odd one out. But pianist Wu Qian blended the sound of the piano, making it seem less percussive against the sound world of bowed string instruments. Her mastery was fully exemplified in the beginning of the Finale: Presto at the end of Smetana’s Piano Trio in G minor, where she kept up the pace of rhythms far more complex for ten fingers than for a bow. The start of the final movement also displayed just how tight a performance the Trio is able to give. Although it felt a little rushed at times, the three performers were always at the same tempo.

Cellist Leonard Elschenbroich produced an engaging mellow tone, playing on the aptly named “Leonard Rose” Matteo Goffriller Cello made in Venice in 1693. This was particularly effective when he played the melody of the theme in the Andante con moto second movement of the Brahms Piano Trio no. 2 in C major. Alexander Sitkovetsky’s finest moment in this concert was the haunting virtuosic violin melody at the opening of the Smetana. We were spoilt at the end with an encore of the slow movement of Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio no. 1 in D minor. Perhaps it felt a little unnecessary after quite such an impressive performance of the Smetana, but nonetheless it was an indulgence that was gratefully received.

The talented Trio deserve every ounce of applause they received for their remarkable polished performance. Their technique and ability to convey emotions as a chamber group can easily be compared to some of the world's most famous classical musicians.

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