This is a perfect concert for the Queen’s Hall: a piano trio performing two of the great piano trios by Beethoven and Schubert, with a nice elegy by Josef Suk sandwiched between them. The piano trio resonates perfectly with the acoustic of the Queen’s Hall, and the decent audience (for a Saturday night) is very appreciative. Winterplay is an annual musical festival for children and adults at the Queen’s Hall organised by Susan Tomes, and concludes with a concert. Tomes is a very experienced and eminent pianist with over fifty CDs to her name, but she is also a music educator and author, and has been the leader of three very established ensembles: Domus, The Gaudier Ensemble, and the Florestan Trio. She is, in short, the perfect pianist to lead a trio, and tonight we can see this in action.
Tomes is not only an excellent pianist, playing with precision, delicacy and passion, but she is also very good as the leader of the trio, communicating clearly with her superb musicians on violin and cello using looks and nods, and the result is perfect harmony. Erich Höbarth (violin) is a very experienced Viennese musician, the leader of Quatuor Mosaïques, and plays with great delicacy of touch. Cellist Philip Higham is principal cellist with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and is known for his sensitive cello playing. Together they make a great trio interpreting great music.
The concert begins with Beethoven’s Trio in D major known as The Ghost because it is meant to be inspired by Macbeth: so there is a Scottish connection! It opens with loud and explosive outbursts, the slow movement is very concentrated and lyrical, and the final movement returns to the fierceness of the first movement with a playful touch. Tomes plays it beautifully and in perfect harmony with her excellent string players. The concert continues with a rich lyrical elegy by Suk, who was Dvořák’s favourite pupil at the Prague Conservatoire.
The final work is Schubert’s piano trio No. 2 in E flat. Schubert composed this work in his final year when he also composed his great song cycle, Die Winterreise. It begins assertively, but then goes into a slow melancholy mood that underlies much of of the work, before going into a nervous and quirky scherzo and the final great movement that almost a acts as a farewell for Schubert.
It is, like all the other music, beautifully played by this skilful trio, in particular by Tomes on the piano. She and the trio get a great response from the Queen’s Hall audience, many of whom had come to several events of Winterplay, which has now established itself as a part of Edinburgh’s musical scene.