Three is the magic number. The animated and dynamic Gould Piano Trio took to the stage and delighted the audience with three piano trios by Beethoven. The concert was the second of an exciting quartet of concerts, ‘The Beethoven Trios Series’, which are part of the Gould Piano Trio’s 20th Anniversary Year celebrations. Lucy Gould has commented that she hoped to keep their performances ‘alive and invigorating’, and this evening certainly was. All three musicians, Lucy Gould (violin), Alice Neary (cello) and Benjamin Frith (piano), took the character given to their respective instruments and acted out each musical part on the stage. This was not only a concert for the listeners: it reminded the audience how classical music can be brought to life in a live performance.

Gould Piano Trio, © Chris Stock
Gould Piano Trio,
© Chris Stock

Commencing the concert, the Piano Trio in E flat, WoO 38 (c. 1791) delighted the audience with interplay between the instruments, and was a light-hearted start to the concert. Each of the movements were executed with impressive expression and, despite each movement being in the same key (E flat), the character of the music came across in the performance and there was never a dull moment. The Gould Trio captured the peaks and troughs of this work concisely and could be seen to enjoy playing it whilst still keeping a firm grasp on the audience. The middle movement of this piece was unexpectedly a fast 'scherzo', as opposed to a slow movement, which kept momentum of the piece.

The Piano Trio in C minor, Op.1 no.3 was written by Beethoven in 1795, only a few years after WoO 38, but provided a good contrast in the programme. It started with a stormy melody in the Allegro con brio, creating a different and dramatic mood. In contrast to the first trio, it is easy to see why Haydn was startled by this work on hearing it at one of the first performances in Prince Lichnowsky’s Salon and advised Beethoven against its publication. Fortunately for the audience of St George’s, his advice came too late and we had the privilege of hearing this wonderfully strong work performed so well. The mood of the piece was reflected in the Gould Trio's faces as they brought the piece to life, capturing every nuance of the separate movements. The fire and drama within the other movements was nicely contrasted within the slow second movement (Andante cantabile), in which a solemn theme and its set of variations provided momentary respite. However, the Prestissimo finale blew the audience away with a skilful performance of astonishing accuracy.

The Piano Trio in E flat, Op. 70 no. 2 (1808) was gladly separated by the interval, as it stood out as being the most challenging and fulfilling to audience and performer alike. This was written at a time when Beethoven’s deafness was at the forefront of his daily life and his compositional style had much more assurance. The trio begins with an endearing and calm melody, quickly evolving into an Allegro section which is just as full of life and surprises as the earlier trios. The air of good nature shown in the first movement continues throughout; it was performed with a huge amount of imagination and musical integrity. The Gould Trio were met with enthusiastic applause from the congregation in St George’s. This was well-deserved praise for an enjoyable evening of Beethoven’s Trios.

***11