Review of the Keswick Music Society Concert given by the Primrose Piano Trio at St. John’s Church Keswick.

Tonight, the famous Primrose Quartet became the Primrose Trio.

However, first it was minus two. They were reduced to Susanne Stanzeleit on violin and Andrew Fuller on cello, but they were playing a remarkable display piece by the Norwegian composer, Johan Halvorsen. He had rewritten Handel’s dazzling harpsichord Passacaglia for the two instruments, and it called for extraordinary virtuosity to capture the complexities of the varied eighteenth-century dance rhythms on violin and cello.

And then there were three. John Thwaites joined them on piano for an immersive performance of Schubert’s B Flat Trio. Schubert knew he was dying, probably from syphilis, but he put aside his darkness and rage to write this wonderfully joyous, surging, flowing music for his friend’s wedding. Susanne said of all composers Schubert was the one she loved most. That love was apparent as she played the female voice against the sonorous cello in the beautiful exchanges of melody in the Andante.

And then there was one. John Thwaite played Schubert’s Impromptu in G Flat. The apparent ease and spontaneity returned us to the slow flowing melodies and the constantly moving accompaniment that was so full of life and beauty in the trio.

And finally, we had all three musicians again in Tchaikovsky’s elegiac trio. He considered the sounds of strings and piano together were incompatible. However, responding to the death of his friend, Nikolai Rubinstein, he wrote a work of astounding proportions that encompassed his feelings of grief, rage and futility in the face of death. The two movements are each sets of variations. The cello’s opening melody announces the sadness of the deeply emotional first movement. In the faster, dramatic, profound second movement all three instruments reached far beyond themselves in a powerful statement of the human tragedy that can only end in silence. The very limitations of Tchaikovsky’s resources gave this last movement an almost orchestral force.

It had been a wonderful concert, a concert that encompassed the range of human passions from love to grief.

Steve Matthews