This show is part of The Wigmore Hall's Sunday Morning Coffee Concert series and the show starts at 11.30am which is as good a sign as any that this is vastly different to the concerts I normally review. So yes, this is my first classical concert review in the 22 years I've been writing online music reviews.
When I was asked if I wanted to go to this concert I said yes mainly as a chance to go to The Wigmore Hall, one of the few very busy concert venues in London I've never been to. Walking into the marble lined hall and into the venue itself, I discover is a reasonable large, very high-ceilinged room that was packed to the gills with an audience; most of whom are in the 60 plus age bracket which have this a rather grand sense of occasion.
I was told off before the concert for taking 4 photos of the Smetana Trio as they came on stage. As the woman behind me put it: "We'll have none of that kind of behaviour here!" Well, that's me told, though I was about to put the camera away anyway and it was still a couple of minutes before they actually started playing.
Thanks to the programme, I know that the current line-up of Smetana Trio is Jitka Cechova on Piano, Radim Kresta on Violin and Jan Palencik on Cello. As the trio have been going since 1934, no one is bothered as to whether this is the original line-up or not, just whether they do justice to the trio's core repertoire.
The piece they open with is Antonin Dvorak's Piano Trio in E Minor Opus 90 Dumky and the first movement or the Lento Meastoso to me sounds like it's led by the Cello in this fantastic sounding room where even though they have no amplification you can hear everything and the audience are pin drop silent throughout as the sound rises and falls. Amazing.
Eventually when the pace quickens to a full on allegro it sounds like this was written to be danced to although I'm sure most of this audience would frown on such behaviour.
The second Movement (or Poco Adagio) slowly builds with a slow and gentle violin solo working beautifully against the restrained piano playing. The Third Movement (or Andante) starts of slowly before it becomes far more musically volatile with the piano really coming to the fore and reminding this philistine of both John Cage's music for prepared Piano and some of Erik Satie's Gymnopedies.
The fourth Movement (or Andante Moderato) had the piano almost jarring against the violin as both the violinist and cellist both played part of the tune Pizzicatto as the sound gets quite angry in places.
The fifth Movement (The Allegro) has some quite disjointed piano, against which the violin seems to be fighting and looking for some musical resolution with the cellist. The piece concludes with the sixth movement (Lento Meastoso) that is a sadly romantic serenade at the conclusion of which we hear the first applause of the set and it's pretty thunderous as the trio get up and take a bow.
The second piece they play is Bedrich Smetana's Piano Trio in G Minor Opus no 15. This starts with the first Movement (or Moderato Asai) that starts with the violinist leading us into an intense piece that has quiet piano and cello passages that are quite sweet that contrast with the angry violin-led passages.
The Second Movement or Allegro, Ma Non Agitato sounds rather pastoral with some rather pretty piano runs that are rather sad and doleful before it builds to a rather dramatic finale.
The third Movement (or Finale, Presto) starts off quite gently and then stutters into a slow part before a series of dramatic builds and falls almost like a series of small waterfalls on a river before they end the piece very dramatically and get a huge round of applause that after a couple of curtain calls gets them back for an encore.
Before the encore starts the pianist, Jitka Cechova, thanks us all for attending and explains that the encore will be a modern piece but that the audience shouldn't worry too much as she explains they will be playing part of Roman Haas' Multicultral Suite. Bearing in mind Roman Haas was only born in 1980 it really is modern.
The piece had a slow careful build with a few slightly jarring elements to the interplay between the piano and Cello before it breaks out into a dance-like section that could almost be a polka or a mazurka before they bring the piece to a sudden stop, provoking another huge round of applause at the end of a very sophisticated concert.
In the foyer after the concert they serve glasses of sherry or cups of coffee that come as part of the ticket price making this a most civilized concert series. Try it - you might be surprised!