STUNNING ARTISTRY

bacchus_trioThree established young stars of the British musical firmament delighted the Milverton Concert Society on 20 January in St Michael’s Church with a performance of a quality not often heard even in the world’s most prestigious concert venues.

The Bacchus Trio (Thomas Gould – violin;  James Barralet – cello; Alasdair Beatson – piano) all pursue flourishing solo and recording careers; but their decision in 2009 to form a Trio can now be seen to have been inspired, enabling three acute, sensitive and complementary musical intelligences to work together in perfect synergy.

The concert opened with Beethoven’s Trio in C minor – a key with special significance for Beethoven (think of the 5th Symphony) redolent of storm and tempest, contrasting with rays of sunshine in the related key of E flat major. From the outset – a pianissimo, exquisitely phrased statement of the first theme – the ear was captivated by the constantly shifting moods of the music, as well as by the impeccable precision and delicacy of the playing.

The next work in an intriguingly contrasted programme was Liszt’s own arrangement of one of his ‘Years of Pligrimage’ piano pieces – “Obermann’s Valley’. As Thomas Gould said in his introduction, Liszt wrote well – albeit rarely – for strings, understanding their virtuosic and expressive potential; the piece, prefaced by literary questions about the human personality and nature, runs the gamut of emotion from brooding solemnity to exultation. The Bacchus Trio delivered an interpretation full of youthful vigour and passion, the two strings in particular developing rich, warm and sensuous tone.

Brahms’  B major Trio, an early work composed at a time of emotional strain and revised 40 years later, begins with a memorable, soaring Romantic melody; from here until the barnstorming final pages we heard a version of the work which, while lacking nothing in expressiveness – especially in the stillness of the slow movement – was characterised by an almost classical poise, eschewing any hint of the overblown grandiloquence to which some Brahms interpreters are tempted….

A scintillating climax to the evening was provided by James Barralet’s arrangement of Chopin’s Introduction and Polonaise Brillante (originally for cello and piano).  This unashamed showpiece gave all instruments the chance to shine, but special tribute must be paid to the extraordinary delicacy, fluency and grace of the piano playing of Alasdair Beatson.

Thanks are due to Milverton Concert Society for making such a memorable musical experience available to a local audience – and, it must be said, for acquiring a new piano of such quality. The next concert – Bella Tromba, an all girl brass quartet with a lively programme for all the family – is on 18 February at 1200 at St Michael’s.

Review by Andrew Carter