Pro-Musica Trio, Kendal Town Hall

AT THE start of the Kendal Midday Club’s concert, members were informed of the sad news of the death of Sir John Manduell CBE, who, since its 2001-2002 season, had served with great distinction as the club’s president. It was appropriately announced that the concert, given by the Pro-Musica Trio, was to be dedicated to the memory of Sir John.

He, surely, would have been delighted by the choice of works offered: Beethoven’s String Trio Op 9 No 3 and Dohnányi’s Serenade Op10.

However, the Pro-Musica Trio’s players - Robert Heard (violin), Louise Williams (viola) and Richard Jenkinson (cello), highly distinguished artists with a wide range of experiences - took some time at the start of their Beethoven performance to establish their undoubted finesse. I was really troubled by Robert Heard’s inability to project his lines convincingly. Too often his higher notes sounded thin and eclipsed by the tonal depth of those of his partners; suspect intonation, and rhythmic frailties also very occasionally bothered me. Happily, things hugely improved as the performance developed and I eventually was able to appreciate the players’ wonderful musicianship, their technical dexterity, their crisp attacks, their impeccable ensemble and their thorough understanding of the work’s overall structure.

No evidence existed of my earlier worries as we embarked on the rarely-heard Dohnányi piece. This is an attractive work and the musicians, with all their skills projected with conspicuous confidence, took us through the work’s wide variety of moods and colours. Its lovely textures were clearly delineated, the many powerful tuttis were thrillingly rich and full-blooded; there was a tight rhythmic vitality throughout the demanding presto passages, the slow movements had exquisite melodic flow and the phrasing throughout was spaciously expressive.

The charming encore - a short intermezzo by Kodály - encapsulated all that had impressed previously: splendid musicianship, flawless ensemble work, an obvious devotion to the music and the players’ ability to convey that love to an audience.