The London Mozart Trio have a concert schedule dominated by London venues, so their performance at the Leeds College of Music as part of the city's International Jewish Performing Arts Festival on Monday was a rare opportunity for those outside the capital to hear their beautiful music. Since their formation in 1989, they have attracted critical acclaim for their interpretations of a wide range of pieces, but somewhat surprisingly, they don't play very much Mozart.

© Mathias Bothor / Deutsche Grammophon
© Mathias Bothor / Deutsche Grammophon

“We've been told that naming ourselves the London Mozart Trio is not such a good selling point!” joked cellist Sagi Hartov, before pianist Colin Stone explained that their namesake didn't compose many piano trios with a strong role for the cello. When making selections, the Trio are understandably attracted to works which will provide an equal balance of playing for Hartov, Stone and violinist Krzysztof Smietana. This usually means delving back no further than Beethoven, but having no wish to be accused of false advertising, they decided to begin the evening with Mozart's Trio in E for Piano, Violin and Cello.

Although led by a very melodic piano line, Trio in E for Piano, Violin and Cello is full of interesting parts for violin and cello which differ considerably in speed and pace. During the first movement, it was very easy to find yourself following the lullaby-like playing of Stone, only to jump as Hartov and Smietana entered the piece with their unexpectedly fast and sprightly strings. The second movement is much lighter with a few notes sounding almost melancholic. This allowed the Trio to demonstrate the precision and sensitivity with which they approach soft and gentle music, before the third and final movement reintroduced the unusual colours and dynamics of the first and showcased the Trio's capacity for joyful and humorous interpretation.

The Mozart was in strong contrast to the Trio's second piece- Rachmaninov's Piano Trio no.1 in G minor- Trio élégiaque. Before they began to play, Stone demonstrated how Trio élégiaque's recurring theme of four rising notes is a reverse echo of the opening of Tchaikovsky's first piano concerto. Many believe that the piece, which Rachmaninov wrote when he was a nineteen year old student, was created in homage to the composer. Whether this is true or not, Trio élégiaque certainly mirrors the dramatic qualities of Tchaikovsky's work.

Although there is just one movement (which is unusual for a piano trio) there are twelve different elements to the piece and solo parts for each instrument. It is full of the haunting piano lines that make any Rachmaninov composition instantly recognisable, but just as you were drawn into the world of Stone's sensitive, delicate playing, the baton was passed to Smietana or Hartov, who drew every drop of emotion from the intense, soaring violin and cello parts.

The Trio ended their wonderful programme with the most famous of Dvořák’s piano trios, Piano Trio no.4 in E minor- Dumky. At times slow and mournful, at others resembling a highly energetic folk dance, Dumky is made up of six dramatically contrasting movements written during Dvořák’s nationalistic period. The inspiration he took from traditional Czech music and his country's folk heritage led to the piece being filled with beautiful violin and cello parts. In the first movement alone, a dramatic and haunting opening quickly evolves into an upbeat, joyful dance before sliding back into elegiac cello lines that, in the hands of Hartov, really pulled at the heart strings. The piece continually moves back and forth, playing with your emotions until the final flourish of the sixth movement takes your last little bit of breath away.

Dumky was a clever choice for a final piece, as it allowed the London Mozart Trio to showcase the whole of their dynamic range, and provided an emotional and very satisfying ending to a wonderful evening of chamber music.