Monday 17 November 2014

London Piano Trio - Music under Stalin

Robert Atchison - Violin
It was the strangest of days in London town last Sunday (09/11/2014). Middle-age soldiers in uniform walked the streets with sweethearts on their arms. Behind these, a second wave of wizened veterans brought up the rear, a little slower but still with chests puffed out. Poppies rested beside brightly coloured campaign strips as people swarmed away from the nearby Cenotaph.

Personal emotions, like many other around me, are confused during the red tinted days between Remembrance Sunday and the eleventh hour of the eleventh month. Just as confusing and enlightening was the sentiments stirred up by the London Piano Trio as they celebrated Music under Stalin. For this day marked the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. On the night of November 9, 1989, the most potent symbol of the Cold War division in Europe tumbled. Earlier that day, the communist authorities of the German Democratic Republic had announced the removal of travel restrictions to democratic West Berlin.

David Jones - Cello
The London Piano Trio of Robert Atchison (violin), Olga Dudnik (piano) and David Jones (cello) split the afternoon into two halves. The first belonged to Georgy Sviridov's stunning Piano Trio in A minor, Op.6. After the interval we were treated to Dmitri Shostakovich's Piano Trio in E Minor, Op.67.

The first movement of Sviridov's masterpiece, quickly highlights Robert Atchison's versatility. With bow tapping on string he gives us a tip-toeing tension. It is a peck of a bird, a drip of a gutter and with the cello of David Jones joining too it has a sinister Hitchcockesque edge. You hear the folk influences of Sviridov's early tuition in the second movement, Sherzo. As you would imagine it was vigorous and playful but it also talked of power and strength. There was a sparse modernity during the third that built the tension once again between violin and cello. The pulse was so strong in the fourth, marked Idyll, you almost believed there was a drummer behind St John's mammoth pillars. It had an incredible vocabulary that left us hanging between the height of the strings and depths of Olga Dudnik's piano.

Olga Dudnik - piano
The second half of the day's concert was equally inspirational as cellist David Jones cast a gossamer trance over all of us who sat in St John's Smith Square. You felt the chill and the ethereal qualities of his playing. It was almost suffocating, such was his grip on our attention during the first movement of Shostakovich's Piano Trio in E Minor, Op.67. This was short lived and Robert Atchison was released like a sling shot on subsequent movements. The London Piano Trio gave us everything in this second set, from sprigs of humour to full bloodied devotion to the motherland.

The pounding of proud breasts wasn't the only sound we heard on this day of double meanings. Juxtaposed beside the poetic fantasies we also heard the strings of Atchison and Jones under pressure, notes of pain and tension tempered those of patriotic fervour.


ps. regular readers will know I started my apprenticeship under Rich Rainlore of Rainlore's World. I was lucky enough to see him at the concert and spend some time with him and his beautiful PA Chetna Kapacee. I hope this means a return to London's live music circuit. We all miss him.

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