Fournier Piano Trio at Plymouth Museum (review)

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Performers have to be ready for all eventualities, from a member of the audience falling ill to a mobile phone going off.

The mark of any true professional is not to allow such a distraction to affect the performance in any way, and clearly this was the case with the Fournier Piano Trio.

When the trio first played in the city, they were truly impressive then. But their return now revealed a maturity in the performance, and an even greater insight into the writing, which so effectively combined the freshness and impetuosity of youth with a well-studied intellectual approach beyond their age.

They are, of course, first-class instrumentalists, but there has to be that added chemistry and empathy in such a closely-knit ensemble for everything to work so convincingly.

Chiao-Ying Chang is a formidable pianist – able to produce immense power from the instrument, yet equally capable of the most hushed pianissimo.

Pei-Jee Ng (cello) has a glorious singing tone, and can produce the most subtle dynamic shading.

Violinist Sulki Yu leads the trio with such assurance and faultless technique, while never simply dominating the ensemble – the art of a true leader, and something more instinctive, than just acquired.

Opening with Arensky’s First Piano Trio, the lush romanticism was there in every bar, yet never mere mawkish sentimentality – an easy mistake, yet crucial to avoid in such evocative writing.

From the almost symphonic sound of the outer movements, the limpid quality of the scherzo and the heartfelt emotion of the Elegia, here was a masterful reading to cherish.

Ravel’s Piano Trio is, however, a more challenging work in every way, making even greater demands on each player, the pianist in particular.

Yet the bristling technical difficulties were just cast aside in a wonderful performance which was all about the sheer beauty and variety of the composer’s writing and often exotic soundscape, but with the music at the fore-front every time.

From the first bar of the Arensky to the tumultuous close of the Ravel, here was playing of the very highest order from a dedicated and talented ensemble that now has the proven potential to make a significant impression in what is still a crowded market-place.


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