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Ben Goldscheider Horn Trio

Horn trios aplenty!
Saturday 27th January, 2024

One of the many strengths of Music Nairn is the variety of musical events they stage, and their latest concert featured a horn trio.  Ensembles programming the superb Brahms Horn Trio are faced with the problem of what else to play that will in any way measure up to this masterpiece.  The Ben Goldscheider Horn Trio solved this issue very successfully by opening with a clever arrangement by Ernst Naumann for horn trio of the Mozart Horn Quintet.  Originally composed for the long-suffering Austrian horn virtuoso Joseph Leutgeb, Mozart's inspiration for his four Horn Concertos (and the butt of his wicked sense of humour), the Quintet makes very idiomatic use of the horn, with some beautifully lyrical passages in the slow movement.  Such is the richness of the live music scene in the Highlands nowadays that many of us attended a performance the following day in Inverness Cathedral featuring the 'full forces' Horn Quintet.  Having said that, the Naumann arrangement was extremely effective, and some deft fingerwork from pianist Huw Watkins ensured that the occasionally intricate counterpoint came across very clearly.

Watkins' versatility was further demonstrated in the next work, a Horn Trio he composed in 2008.  While the dominant texture in this strikingly assertive piece consisted of the development of some boldly striding horn and violin phrases and some very spikey piano motifs, there were also passages of a more beguiling and contemplative nature – a worthy addition to the sparse horn trio repertoire. 

The second half opened with a slot for violin and piano, and a group of pieces built around the Three Romances for violin and piano by Clara Schumann, the wife of composer Robert Schumann but a fine composer in her own right and a celebrity piano virtuoso to boot.  Correctly judging that these pieces were conceived as free-standing works, the violinist Benjamin Baker and pianist Huw Watkins constructed a five part sequence, incorporating two solo piano works closely associated with Clara Schumann, which she is known to have played.  The first of Mendelssohn's Songs without Words op 62 features the very motif Robert Schumann used to evoke his wife, while Brahms' Eb Intermezzo op117 was one of Clara's favourite pieces, which she played regularly with the young composer.  It is a mark of the high quality of Clara's music that it provided a fine framework for these two exquisite solo piano masterpieces.

Finally we heard the Brahms Horn Trio, a work which dominates the horn trio repertoire and is arguably the finest piece of chamber music for horn.  Brahms understands the instrument perfectly, and in addition to the beautifully lyrical opening Andante and the concluding rollicking Finale, he dares to take us into dark and enigmatic territory with the Adagio Mesto.  Perhaps the most impressive playing was in the effervescent Scherzo, but this was a wonderfully musical account of a stunning masterpiece, and we were left in no doubt as to the considerable virtues of the music and of this superb young ensemble.

Reviewed by: D James Ross

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