Gould Trio, Kendal Town Hall

I AM sure that the Kendal Midday Concert Club’s bumper audience at its most recent concert fully appreciated the array of musical talent that was arrayed on the town hall’s stage. For 25 years Lucy Gould (violin), Alice Neary (cello) and Benjamin Frith (piano) have been at the international forefront of chamber music performance. As the Gould Piano Trio they have toured extensively, broadcast widely and, amazingly, slotted in teaching commitments and successful solo careers - my cup of admiration floweth over!

Two Piano Trios by Beethoven - Op 1 No 3 in C minor and Op 97 in B flat (Archduke) formed the trio's programme; could there be anything better than the Gould's playing two such masterpieces? We were able to sit back, close our eyes and (hopefully) forget the woes of the world.

Throughout the performances of both works the audience would have been mesmerised by the quality of ensemble work. Very rarely was there any suggestion of a miscalculation; the players flowed as a single unit with phrasing so natural and spontaneous; subtly-shaped cadences were an especial delight, as was their absolute control over dynamic contrasts - during the quietest of passages we held our breaths, not daring to intrude. With absorbing transitions from one to the other, mood succeeded mood, tempi changed, textures changed - brilliant, dynamic, virtuosic writing would be followed by slow-moving lyricism during which sheer, utter beauty acted as a salve.

Due to the percussive nature of its tone, the piano - a Piano Trio’s centre-pin and, not infrequently, its too-dominant feature - frequently compares unfavourably with string instruments, whilst sharing emotional, slowly-moving legato lines. With his exceptional command of chord-voicing and a glowing cantabile, however, the pianist was generally on equal footing with his partners. Both power and delicacy illuminated his fast passage work and, in this context, his string partners were on equal footing with him. Their musical intelligence and supreme technical skills made for a captivating partnership.

Let's remember, they were but recreating the thoughts of a genius - Beethoven.