Herald Scotland: Review Perth Concert Hall Chamber Music

Nicola Benedetti and friends play Chamber Music, Perth Concert Hall

Michael Tumelty, Five stars

FOR the final major concert in her weekend residency at Perth Concert Hall on Saturday night, it might have been perceived that Nicola Benedetti wheeled out the big guns, re-joining her musical partners, cellist Leonard Elschenbroich and pianist Alexei Grynyuk, adding into the mix the fabulous and keenly-intelligent viola player Scott Dickinson, formerly of the Leopold Trio, now principal viola player with the BBC SSO, and letting fly with a couple of the biggest blockbuster chamber music masterpieces in the book.

Well, it was an enthralling and magnetic concert experience, but it wasn’t quite as obvious as the end of the last sentence might suggest. For starters, Benedetti began on her own, with Alexei Grynyuk accompanying, in a little two-movement Sonata in a minor key by Mozart, K 304, where much of the music seemed to be characterised by stealth, restraint and understatement. This, I considered, could be a risky start: it was being followed by Brahms’ B Major Piano Trio, one of the richest, most golden-melodied pieces in Romantic chamber music: I still swoon to the legendary Stern-Istomin-Rose recording, which is ancient but will live forever in its big, almost wide-screen unfolding of Brahms’ glorious music.

The Benedetti group’s version of the Trio was almost electrifyingly different. It was infinitely more intimate, which instantly collapsed the broad horizons, drawing the listener in, and creating that magical sense that the composer is speaking just to you. Despite the sheer variety of music throughout the piece, that, to me, was its message. It was captured again and again in the great slow movement, where there was a wondrous stillness, and just at the opening of the finale, where it seemed that the music didn’t want to speak for fear of breaking the spell.

And then, with Scott Dickinson having joined the group, they did it all over again with Brahms’ Second Piano Quartet, his longest work of the chamber music species. I don’t know how anyone else in the audience might have perceived this performance, which was crystal-clear, but I was sat there, utterly rapt, listening to these wizards, these spell-binding musical narrators, weaving their intoxicating tales in abstract musical terms. Abstract, yes, but with precision-tooled accuracy in emotional terms. What a weekend.


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