A freezing Sunday morning saw the multi-national Trio Isimsiz ('no name' in Turkish) at the Holywell Music Room, playing an all-German programme to an audience of 200. First came a Haydn piano trio, No. 27 in A flat. A musical acquaintance of mine told me after the concert that she refers to pieces of this sort as twiddly pom music. The precise meaning of the phrase escapes me, but I think it may refer particularly to the sort of bland, pawky, unmemorable stuff churned out by the ream by people like František Xaver Dušek, Josef Haydn (under pressure from a surfeit of commissions) and even, dare one say, the juvenile WA Mozart. On the evidence of the opening 'allegro' here, our twiddly pommer may have had a point, but she was rudely undone by the succeeding 'adagio', with its stately theme laid down by pianist Erdem Misirlioglu. Its tone was melancholy, and I found it soothing to the spirit. I wonder if the Isimsizs picked out this piano trio for the connection between the moodiness of its 'adagio' and that of the 'largo' in Beethoven's Ghost Trio to come?
The transition from Haydn to Wolfgang Rihm's Fremde Szene iii ('foreign, strange scene' iii) could hardly have been more stark. Mr Rihm was formerly a student of the enfant terrible of modern music, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and the word in the hall on arrival had been that something possibly brutal and severe was at hand. This impression was reinforced by a nervous-looking Coffee Concert supremo Chris Windass assuring his audience that it would all be over in 11 minutes. The event turned out to be much less onerous and much more fun. From a mild beginning, the piano assumes what the programme notes aptly called a 'processional quality' as Mr Misirlioglu tapped out a rhythm on adjacent keys while violin and cello swirled around him. I detected order among the apparent chaos and a core of energy. Later, en route to its volcanic climax, the pianist hammered away at the extreme upper register black notes as the tempo accelerated around him. Stirring stuff!
Beethoven's Ghost Trio from the composer's middle period completed the concert. I thought the start a bit rocky, our musicians rather gabbling the crucial opening statement to which Beethoven returns repeatedly in this movement in a circular pattern, even when having apparently strayed into a region of more than one different keys. In the famous 'largo', the piano dwells on a succession of moody tremolandos, releasing fiery bursts as the tension level among the three players rose and fell. Here I thought the Trio really came into its own, the players belying the anonymous modesty of their name, dovetailing perfectly as the sharp sound from the piano contrasted with drawn-out notes from the strings.