What a treat to discover such a delightful venue and to be treated to such an intimate and enjoyable evening of music making. The 1901 Arts Club was established by Joji Hattori in 2007 as a meeting place and resource for musician and artists. The 45-seater concert hall now hosts a varied season of chamber concerts and which also allows the audience to sample the pleasant atmosphere of the club for an evening.

Erato Piano Trio © Ekaterina Stafford
Erato Piano Trio
© Ekaterina Stafford

This evening’s concert was intended to be a showcase for the excellent Erato Trio, but disaster struck very close to the concert when the cellist Julia Morneweg injured her shoulder and was unable to perform. The planned programme of the Fauré (with Hannah Marcinowicz on saxophone replacing the violin), Granados and Ravel Piano Trios mostly had to be abandoned. Only the Ravel survived with an inspired last minute replacement, Alexei Sarkissov.

The new programme kicked off with pianist Jose Menor performing three contrasting pieces from the Granados Goyescas. This was a very idiomatic interpretation, with Menor very much demonstrating how immersed he was in the ‘Spanishness’ of the works. In Los Requiebros, he was ideally attuned to the spontaneous shifts in passionate moods. The considerable technical demands were also under his fingertips, particularly in the extrovert El Pelele that ended the selection.

From there these Iberian delights we then moved to a sequence of pieces with saxophonist Hannah Marcinowicz, who charmed us with her introductions, creating a relaxed and sympathetic atmosphere. The opening work was the Concerto in C minor by Benedetto Marcello. Originally written for the oboe it sounded ‘to the manor born’ on its younger cousin the soprano sax. She managed to bring a passion to the slow movement with her use of vibrato, which eludes most oboists. The three pieces that followed were essentially lollipops that culminated in a suitably cheesy rendition of an arrangement of the 1930s hit Deep Purple composed by Peter De Rose.

After the interval, spent in the very pleasant atmosphere of the bar, Hannah returned with two more pieces which showed her deep musicality in a clearer light. A fabulous account of Debussy’s Syrinx, with the alto sax bringing out a particular sensuality in the piece that the more rarefied tones of the flute misses. Finally in an arrangement of the Intermezzo from the Granados opera Goyescas, Marcinowicz and Menor combined to find just the right note of Spanish intensity.

As entertaining as the programme had been so far, it was very satisfying to arrive at this performance of the Ravel Piano Trio. Surely his greatest chamber work and one of the most important in the 20th century repertoire, the patched up (but you’d hardly notice) Erato Trio, gave us an account that emphasised the emotional weight of the piece composed on the brink of the First World War. The brilliance of the piano writing and the interesting effects on the strings were beautifully combined in the long first movement. The dazzling rhythmic fireworks of the Scherzo, found a threatening edge here and the austere Passacaglia was serene and moving in just the right measure. The brilliant Finale, with its grand closing pages, filled the small hall with a wave of sound equivalent to a huge orchestra in a concert hall and the accomplished performance was met with very enthusiastic applause.

This was a refreshing evening all round, with a true feeling of ‘Chamber Music’, where you felt engaged with the performers in a way that is surely in the true spirit of small scale music-making. I would thoroughly recommend a trip to the enchanting 1901 Arts Club as an antidote to and just a short walk away from the heavyweight cultural edifice that is London’s Southbank.