The Chichester Chamber Concert presentation on Thursday 9h November was held in the Chapel of the Ascension at Chichester University and featured the Trio Con Brio Copenhagen. The trio is composed of two sisters, Soo-Jin Hong (violin) and Soo-Kyung (cello) and Soo-Kyung’s husband Jens Elvekjaer (piano). The close relationship of the players was reflected in their playing with keen attention to detail and precise ensemble throughout. Eye contact between the two sisters was constant.
The trio chose to open their programme with a trio written especially for them by the Swedish composer Sven-David Sandström. Sandström, born in 1942, is a prolific composer of opera, oratorio, choral and orchestral works as well as chamber music. His Four Pieces for Piano Trio were written in 2012. Partly melodic, partly percussive, partly astringent the trio never settles down and there is little sense of development. The Con Brio trio were clearly familiar with the piece and gave it a strong committed performance.
The Piano Trio in D major Op. 70 no.1 by Beethoven, nicknamed The Ghost, followed. The name The Ghost was allegedly given to it by Beethoven’s most famous pupil, Carl Czerny, who claimed the second movement reminded him of Hamlet’s ghost. In fact Beethoven was at the time of composition discussing the possibility of writing an opera of Macbeth. The piece begins with a relatively short fast paced opening movement. The second movement begins eerily with three notes sustained in the strings after which the piano responds mournfully. It ends in gripping pauses and abrupt and intermittent stops and outbursts, requiring immaculate timing. The final movement, also relatively short, is more direct in style and serves as a warm relief. This was a thoroughly gripping performance by the Con Brio Trio with intense concentration and precision, although with occasional lapses in balances when the piano and cello swamped the violin.
The real tour de force however came after the interval with an exhilarating performance of Tchaikovsky’s mighty Trio in A minor Op 50 “In memory of a great artist”. Written in 1882, the trio is dedicated to the pianist Nikolai Rubenstein, brother of Anton Rubenstein under whom Tchaikovsky studied composition at the St Petersburg Conservatory. Unusual in structure, the trio consists of a lengthy first movement in sonata form followed by a theme and eleven variations and a coda. The piano part in particular is exceptionally demanding and does not let up for the work’s whole length of fifty minutes. Jens Elvekjaer produced a stunning virtuoso performance. This was altogether a dramatic, powerful rendition, made even more immediate by the close proximity of the players with their audience in the main body of the chapel. The variations were delightful, especially variation VIII (Fuga; Allegro moderato) and the full force of emotion skilfully held back until being released to magnificent effect in the Coda. This was a performance to savour by a group of thoughtful and dedicated players of outstanding talent.