It seems an odd decision to open your concert with a 'lollipop', but this is what Trio Apaches decided to do when they performed for Music Nairn. Their own arrangement of Rossini's William Tell Overture was a clever bit of work, which exploited the work's lovely pastoral cello melody before launching into the famous Gallop. Clearly this sort of novelty went down well with the audience, and indeed I can hardly complain about a lack of balancing profundity in the demanding programme which then unfolded.
The Mendelssohn Piano Trios reveal the composer at his most brilliant and inventive, and the second Trio in C minor, the more serious and substantial of the two, has a few tricks up its sleeve. Packed with lyrical melodies, its passionate opening movement and contemplative Adagio give way to a sparkling Scherzo which recalls the youthful world of Mendelssohn's effervescent music for A Midsummer Night's Dream. In the Finale, assertive material gives rise to a triumphant treatment of the Protestant chorale Vor deinen Thron, as the Jewish-born convert Mendelssohn flaunts his Lutheran credentials. Even though the insertion of this chorale may perhaps be regarded as a little melodramatic, I always find it moving, and in a powerful reading by the Trio Apaches we were left in no doubt as to the integrity and greatness of this piece of chamber music.
Playing in rather unconventional and informal black T-shirts underlined the energetic athleticism of the group's approach, and the whole event had a 'lads on tour' feel to it. Ashley Wass, whose pianistic skills have been much admired in Nairn for some years, clearly loved playing with cellist Thomas Carrol and violinist Matthew Trussler, and their intense rapport was clear in their flawless account of the Mendelssohn.
Live performances of Ravel's A-minor Piano Trio are rare, for the obvious reason that it is an extremely difficult work to bring off, but undaunted, Trio Apaches proceeded to give us a performance which was both technically stunning and musically beguiling. Ravel's unpredictable and radically original melodic shapes and playful use of irregular time signatures held no terrors for them, and they revelled in his sparkling and muscular textures.
This was a remarkable performance, which revealed an absolute masterpiece in its true colours – by turns startlingly imaginative, breathtaking in its cumulative power and sizzling with sheer bravura. And then an appreciative ovation from a large audience elicited another 'lollipop', or rather the Gallop from the same 'lollipop', this time even faster. The lads clearly had a good time romping through Rossini for a second time, and as I say I can't begrudge the audience and the performers a bit of light relief. However, I recalled the novelty turn in a live Black and White Minstrel Show I was taken to in my childhood, where a poor musician played The Flight of the Bumblebee on a xylophone - and then played it again at double speed while spinning round on roller skates. It's a slippery slope…