The monthly Prelude in Tea concert at The Independent Theatre, North Sydney, featured the accomplished chamber music group, Seraphim Trio. I attended the second of two concerts the Trio performed as part of their Schubertiade weekend that covered all Schubert’s works for Piano Trio, as well as a rarely heard Piano Quartet and the ever popular “Trout” Quintet where they were joined by two guest musicians.
The sumptuous pre-concert afternoon tea eased the audience into a relaxing afternoon of musical appreciation. The Trio, comprised of violinist Helen Ayres, cellist Tim Nankervis, and pianist Anna Goldsworthy, commenced with the Trio in One Movement in B-flat D28 “Sonatensatz” which was written by the 15 year old Schubert in 1812, the first time he had written for such a combination of instruments. It was played with a pleasing rhythmic energy that reflected the lighthearted nature of the piece.
Next was the Notturno for Piano Trio in E-flat D897, written in the last year of Schubert’s short life. The expressive soulful passages, clearly demonstrating how Schubert’s music is governed by song and poetry, alternating with quite loud intense passages, were probably products of his fear and despair over his impending death.
Violist, Jacqueline Cronin, joined the Trio for the Adagio and Rondo Concertante in F for Piano Quartet D487, rarely played, as Tim explained, largely due to the very challenging piano part. Tim went on to say that the open sonority in the piece prefigured the “Trout” Quintet. Great unison was in evidence throughout the piece, though it had some unevenness in the fast arpeggio sections, blurring of sound during the louder passages, and a rather heavy touch on the Steinway baby grand piano, bearing in mind a fortepiano would have been played for a small gathering of Schubert’s friends back in his day.
The Quartet was joined by double bassist, David Campbell, after interval to play the well-known Piano Quintet in A D667 “Trout”, a piece much-loved by the Trio and recorded by them several years ago. The camaraderie and conviviality present during a real Schubertiade was very obvious here. All four strings players bounced off each other with great verve and joy. The delightful first movement featured prominent melodic resonance from the lower strings. The very lively third movement Scherzo and Trio and the fourth movement featuring the Trout song with six variations were highlights. In the latter, the theme was introduced by the violin, Helen again showing off her precise intonation, followed by the piano, then the other strings in various modified ways before the violin and cello alternated in the final variation. In the fifth and final movement, the quiet passages were appealing although the contrast in expression too excessive at times.
An enjoyable and satisfying afternoon in terms of both the music and baking delights, not to mention the drinks generously available to all post-concert while mingling with the musicians themselves.