The Monday Platform at Wigmore Hall, presented by the Park Lane Group, showcased the impressive and varied talents of the Lawson Trio and pianist Clare Hammond. The Park Lane Group provides support, performance platforms, and other creative opportunities for talented young artists. Now in its 57th season, PLG has presented nearly 1,900 young artists over the years, many of whom have gone on to enjoy successful international careers.

Clare Hammond © Angela Dove
Clare Hammond
© Angela Dove

This was an enjoyable programme which combined the elegant and witty classicism of Haydn with the intimate lyricism of Schubert, the mercurial passions of Schumann, Bach’s Italianate arabesques, and the earthy nationalism of Ginastera. The mix of ensemble and solo piano works made for an extremely satisfying concert experience.

The Lawson Trio opened the evening with Haydn’s Piano Trio in E flat major, Hob. XV:30. Composed in 1796, when Haydn was back in Vienna and reinstated as Kapellmeister at the Esterházy court, this piano trio is probably the last of his works in this genre. Its harmonic shifts and turns are the products of Haydn’s interest in specific tonal relationships – for example, in the interval of the third. The work opens in generous E flat, moving down a third into C minor for the Andante middle movement, an elegant courtly dance. The Lawson Trio brought warm-toned strings and a lyrical piano line to the first movement, with a congenial tempo to match the good-natured mood of the movement. The middle movement was graceful and witty, while the final Presto was sprightly and spicy, its moments of turbulence, and surprising suspensions and chromaticism deftly highlighted by all three players.

Schumann’s Piano Trio no. 3 in G minor, which opened the second half, inhabits darker territory. Described by Clara Schumann as “original and increasingly passionate”, the work was composed at the time of the composer’s deteriorating mental health, and is shot through with rapid and extreme shifts of mood and character, and barely-concealed neuroses. A committed and very convincing performance, the Lawson Trio were adept at neatly catching all of Schumann’s mood swings and swift changes of character, colour and texture, while in the second movement, the full-toned warmth of the strings and piano combined came to the fore once again, with effective interweaving of the violin and cello lines in the unsettling, angular middle section before calm is restored.

And so to Clare Hammond’s solo piano works. Acclaimed for her musical intelligence, formidable technique and virtuoso flair, Hammond offered three contrasting works which amply demonstrated her ability to move seamlessly from the melodic gems inherent in Schubert’s writing, through Bach’s urbanity, to the raw energy and sensuousness of Ginastera. Bach’s Italian Concerto was replete with crisp articulation, tasteful pedaling and, in the opening movement, sensitive attention to the different textures of orchestral and solo keyboard writing. The middle movement felt improvisatory at times (despite Bach’s “written out” ornaments), an expressive treble line floating over the bass. The final movement was open-hearted, its bright theme streaming forth with clarity and wit.

The three Danzas Argentinas by Alberto Ginastera demonstrate the composer’s strong interest in the folk music of his country with their vernacular scales, strummed textures, and lively dance rhythms. The middle of the triptych, “Dance of the Beautiful Maiden”, was sensuous and sultry, while the first and the last were colourful and earthy, Hammond adeptly harnessing the full dynamic range of the Wigmore Steinway to striking effect, particularly in the final fff glissando of the “Dance of the Arrogant Cowboy”, bringing the concert to a close with masterly panache.

But for me, it was Schubert’s Sonata in A, D.664 (1819), popularly known as the “little” A major Sonata (to differentiate it from his more substantial work from 1828 in the same key) that really stole the show. The work is genial and expressive, its serenely expansive opening melody belying the more assertive and melancholy passages which follow. A tender middle movement is built around a single theme, while the finale has the lilt of the Landler, with nods to Beeethoven in its textures, and a wistful mood. Clare brought to the work an intense intimacy, through highly expressive and beautifully judged cantabile playing, delicacy of touch, and sympathetic attention to the score, thereby highlighting all the subtle shifts and colours in Schubert’s writing, and reminding us, above, all, that Schubert was a composer of songs.

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