These Conway Hall Sunday Evening Concerts are always good value, but this one was especially generous: there was a ‘pre-concert recital’, 40 mins before the concert proper. As we were taking our seats, pianist Hiro (Hiroaki) Takenouchi was still driving frantically to the venue, having been severely held up in traffic. Three minutes after arriving he stood before the expectant audience, with no time to warm up, gauge the piano, ready his mind, and was required to play Beethoven’s Appassionata, no less. What to do? Well, there was nothing for it: just go for it! And go for it he did. Yes, yes, yes, there were plenty of wrong notes smattering the first movement, but who cares? This was a terrific performance, full of passion, panic and commitment, a white-knuckle ride that had me on the edge of my seat. In such a context one wouldn’t expect the Andante con moto to be a rapt, still centre of the work; it was the ‘con moto’, with movement, that prevailed, and it moved inexorably to that diminished 7th that hangs in the air before delivering us to the relentless, breathless perpetual motion of the last movement, cranked up even more in the closing presto. All this Takenouchi accomplished not merely with great panache and communicative power, but also with a sense of the heroic seriousness of this, one of Beethoven’s greatest works.

Perhaps then it was not surprising that the first work in the Beara Trio’s concert that followed, very early Beethoven, the Piano Trio Op. 1 No. 2 in G major, seemed to fall just a bit flat. There was not enough ‘vivace’ in the allegro vivace, and not enough expression in the Largo con espressione. It all seemed just a bit too straight, though I was charmed by the short rising figure the cello plays to introduce the scherzo. But thereafter the concert certainly took flight. In an alteration of the advertised order they played the John Ireland Phantasie Trio next, and here passion overflowed, a wonderful dotted opening theme that rises with great aspiration and then arches over and down with romantic pathos: a glorious work wonderfully played, with particularly fine solos from cellist, Aoife Nic Athlaoich.

The Shostakovich Op. 8 Trio is a very accessible early work, reminding you of Shostakovich’s role as a silent film accompanist and film music composer, starting with a chromatic falling motive full of pathos on the strings, it alternates its thematic material until ending with a big tune supported by frantic piano ornamentation. It was really a student work, and the last few bars were completed by another hand, but the Beara Trio gave it a committed and delightful performance that was as moving as it was entertaining. Cliodna Shanahan’s forthright piano style was especially effective in the bravura passages.

The concert closed with a Mendelssohn Trio no. 1 and, as always with Mendelssohn, one is astounded by how good it is! There’s such wonderful lyrical writing for the violin, played with great warmth and beauty by Claire Sterling, and the whole piece is full of good tunes woven together with breathtaking skill. The Andante was especially touching, and the Finale – Allegro assai appassionato – was accomplished with plenty of allegro and plenty of passion bringing a very fine concert to a rousing close.