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String Trios at Wigmore Hall

  • March 20, 2024
  • 3 min read
String Trios at Wigmore Hall

Violinist, Veronika Eberle, has made such an impressive name for herself as a concerto soloist in Germany that it was especially good to see her perform in the much more intimate surroundings of the Wigmore Hall. Here she was joined by French viola player, Adrien La Marca and Dutch cellist Quirine Viersen, for a trio of trios that are pillars of the genre – at least, two of them are and one deserves to be. Eberle and La Marca are in their mid thirties, Viersen, a couple of decades older, and all have won a mantelshelf of prizes in their time.

There is always a danger that when musicians with strong individual personalities are put together they will respond to each with too much force for the coherence of the music. In Beethoven’s Op. 9 No. 3 trio the anticipation would be that the music can taken whatever is thrown at it, and Viersen was keen to put it to the test; less so Eberle, who had a more restrained approach, with La Marca (as is the violist’s lot) caught in the middle. The result was that the performers took time to settle and the reading never quite integrated. In a way this was Eberle seeing Beethoven the classical composer, Viersen, stressing his revolutionary Romanticism: both valid but a discussion not resolved.

Their second offering was both more successful and more interesting, partly because it was of a work that is far less well known. The trio Op.58 was Albert Roussel’s last work, finished on 10th July, the day before Gershwin died, and only weeks before his own death in, August 1937. It is a contrasting and perhaps deliberately contradictory work, with two short and relatively playful movements bookending a much longer and agonised Adagio. That sombre reflection at its heart makes the trio a proper valediction and shows the real depth of Roussel’s imagination. Here the lack of resolution is intentional and keeps the music disturbed until the final cord. For those who tend to dismiss Roussel as flippant or lightweight, the Adagio of this final trio is a weighty counter-argument, a personal statement but also a mirror to a dark time in much of Europe.

By 1937 the string trio was a far more serious vehicle for composers than it had been at the end of the 18th century when Mozart wrote his Divertimento, K563. Nonetheless this set of six movements, including a pair of minuets, is far more than trivial domestic entertainment for aristocratic patrons. Mozart alternates energy with elegance, passages of individual virtuosity with conversations that echo his operatic ensembles. Eberle and her companions brought all the definition and bustle but just missed the dramatic light and shade needed to make the movements continuously compelling. It was a near miss, though, and only a curmudgeonly critic minded.

The Wigmore Hall scores highly in making such truly high quality music making available to younger audiences. Classic FM underwrites tickets for those under 35 so that they only pay £5. And for some concerts, including this one, the Cavatina Chamber Music Trust allows those between 8 and 25 to attend free: definitely not the stuff of elitism – except in the positive sense of top musicians. Sniffy politicians take note!

Image: Violinist, Veronika Eberle performs with violist Adrien La Marca and cellist Quirine Viersen, at Wigmore Hall, London on Wednesday, 6th March, 2024. © The Wigmore Hall Trust, 2024.

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Simon Mundy

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