Review 4th concert:  The Pirasti Piano Trio, Nicholas Miller (violin), Alison Wells (cello), Jeffrey Sharkey (piano)   St John’s Church

Programme    Rebecca Clarke: Piano Trio, Paul Schoenfield: Cafe Music, Brahms: Trio no 1 in B Major, Op.8 ( Revised version)

The Piano Trio by Rebecca Clarke trio was a revelation. Here was the powerful individual voice of a female composer who was unjustly neglected for decades. Clarke was born in Britain of American and German parents. Her Piano Trio, written immediately after the First World War, seems riven with the violence of the war from the opening rattling chords heard again and again throughout all three movements to the broken evocative pastoral beauty of the contrasting tune. At times it sounds constrained and almost defeated as it is played on the muted strings of the violin and at other times defiant as it is played with determined resonance on the cello while the piano flows ever onward. The piece, especially the Andante molto semplice seemed profoundly imbued with the emotions of that time and the music’s beautiful but gnarled complexity revealed an original voice adapting to music to a new and more conflicted age.

Paul Schoenfield’s Cafe Music, composed in 1985, was equally of its time. A total change of mood, light, energetic, frivolous entertaining and playfully beautiful, it was a delightfully inventive piece that brought together a multiplicity of musical styles – jazz, Broadway, folk, gypsy and classical – to recreate the atmosphere of a sophisticated cocktail bar (without the dense clouds of cigar smoke). The second movement, Andante moderato, was particularly lovely with its melody based on a Jewish theme.

Profound and entertaining by turns as the first two works had been, the Brahms Trio was overwhelming in the onward movement of its sensuous harmonies. This revised version retained all the exuberance of the twenty-year old who first composed it, but was all the richer for the restraint and discipline the mature composer brought to the work 35 years later. After the lively, unsettled Scherzo, time almost stands still in the Adagio as the cello seems to draw out the saddest melody from its very soul.

The Pirasti Piano Trio, husband and wife, Jeffrey Sharkey, on piano, and Alison Wells, on cello, together with their friend of forty years, Nicholas Miller, on violin, played with an ease and naturalness and a sense of long-acquaintance that allowed this wonderful music to speak for itself.

This splendid concert was rounded off with a little bonbon, Jeffrey Sharkey’s own variations on Time in a Bottle by Jim Croce.

Review by Steve Matthews