Music is back after an absence of nearly a year. Doors are opening up to chamber music all over the country, and concert goers in Sheffield now have a full season to look forward to from Music in the Round. The Upper Chapel wasn’t packed, it has to be said, but the audience made up for this with a warm welcome.

Leonore Piano Trio
© Eric Richmond

The Leonore Piano Trio seemed keener than ever to entertain, and launched straight into Haydn’s Piano Trio in C major, Hob XV:21, with energy that could be bottled and sold as a tonic for the times. After the short slow introduction, Tim Horton’s fingers danced a fine jig over the keys with Benjamin Nabarro prancing joyfully in his wake on the fiddle – sorry violin – but Haydn’s music is playfully rustic at times; so much so, that the composer’s mature, sophisticated harmonies repeatedly give way to bagpipe-like drone passages, gleefully emphasised here by Nabarro’s violin and Gemma Rosefield’s cello.

Yes, there was a cello, although Haydn’s Trios do relegate the instrument to simply playing the bass line. Even the violin is uncharacteristically reduced to doubling the tune enunciated by the piano. There are however, different opinions about this; many modern musicologists maintain that because Haydn’s piano was far less powerful than later ones, the piano merely reinforced the violin, and in performances on modern instruments a balance has to be struck. If so, that balance must be a matter of taste, and here the Leonore and the audience definitely agreed. Certainly Nabarro gave the song-like theme in the slow movement plenty of pathos before the trio rushed in a playful, helter-skelter fashion through the final Presto.

Roles were reversed for a short while in the opening of Dvořak’s Piano Trio no. 3 in F minor. The strings announce the solemn opening of a work written soon after the death of the composer’s mother. The piano brings no solace, but at last, in the major key second subject, there is a tune, a lovely, reassuring one, beautifully expressed by Rosefield’s cello.

You might, in a Dvořak Scherzo, expect something even more dance like than the Haydn. Yes, the second movement is very rhythmic, but it’s full of unexpected accents and cross-rhythms. Just the sort of music that the Leonore loves to dive into, and here gave a tight, serious, dynamic interpretation. Consolation was at hand though, and it was provided by the cello, again, in the slow movement. So Rosefield’s patience through the Haydn was, for her, and the audience, richly rewarded.

In the finale, the rhythmic tension and irregularities return, demanding the sort of precision we have come to expect from the Leonore. Their bold acceptance of passion in music also helped, but then, at the very end, Dvořak seems to find peace in a sudden switch to the major.

Sadly, after the usual clapping and stamping, there was no chatting, or greeting of friends; the audience were shepherded out and removed their masks in the fresh evening air. 

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