Saturday, 8 June 2013

Buried Treasure: The Sitkovetski Piano Trio play Exeter Northcott Theatre Classical Concert Series Sunday 5 February 2012

The Sitkovetski Trio
Violin: Alexander Sitkovetski
Piano: Wu Qian
'Cello: Leonard Eischenbroich

(This article comes from the programme notes of 'Classical Journey', Tuesday 7 February 2012)

In the five years of their collaboration, the Sitkovetski Piano Trio have travelled to Devon many times. Most recently their leader, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky, and pianist Wu Qian came to Crediton in April 2011 to play a recital of piano and violin duets at the Church of the Holy Cross for the St Boniface Concert Society. The whole trio, which also includes 'cellist Leonard Eischenbroich, previously played there in 2009.

Alexander and Qian have since married, further strengthening the bond within the group, which has continued to grow in reputation and popularity. The ensemble is truly international. Alexander (Sasha) is Russian, Qian Chinese and Leonard German. It is wonderful for us that they are now based firmly in London, and willing to venture down to the South West to entertain us.

(Just to clarify: Wu Qian and Qian Wu are not the same person. Qian Wu is a violinist and leader of the Wu String Quartet (who performed at Powderham Castle Fri 7 Oct). Both women are from Shanghai. They know each other well and have performed together. Both are in fact called Qian Wu, but Wu Qian has reversed the order of her names for professional purposes - so that the two musicians will not be confused. I think that's clear . . . )

Anyone seeing the Trio in concert would be in no confusion. Wu Qian is unforgettable. She is a mesmerising presence at the piano. She plays with absolute determination and concentration. Sasha and Leonard work equally hard on their respective instruments - and to equal effect. The smallest nuance of phrase has clearly been worked out to perfection and is played seamlessly and effortlessly for the concert.

Things started extremely well with a trio by Haydn, full of passion and classical beauty, and ending with an impressive presto. Owing to a confusion of order in the programme the audience were expecting to hear a very sad trio next - Smetana's G minor. Pushed to the extremes of despair by the death of all his children, Smetana threw all his expressive ability into and extraordinary three movement composition.

Quickly people realised something wasn't quite right. The opening allegro led into a Scherzo - a four movement work. Leonard had his own 'cello line which Smetana had not provided. Slowly the penny dropped. This was Beethoven's Archduke Trio - last on the programme. I, of course, wouldn't know my Archduke from Duke Ellington, but others were quicker on the uptake. That star Devon pianist, Frances Waters, was in the audience and soon worked out what was happening.

Every emotion exploited.
Bedrich Smetana
Piano Trio in G minor
Even those who were still perplexed had no concerns. The sound was simply magnificent - whatever we were hearing! The final rousing presto, which may or may not have settled any lingering doubts, was a sheer delight.

During the interval (with coffed served in the foyer - a new initiative) people got the story straight. And then - the Smetana. Unmistakeable, and unmistakeably unrelenting in its emotional impact, the G minor trio took everyone on a whole new journey - of grief and frenetic rage. Bedrich Smetana had put every ounce of his energy and emotion into the composition and the three musicians did likewise. Truly awe-inspiring, the sound held, pummelled and drew the audience along without let-up. A virtouso performance.

Keeping up the energy.
Inspired playing in
Mendelssohn's Trio No 1
The audience  clearly wanted more, and the trio were able to provide - 'andante con moto tranquillo' from Felix Mendelssohn's Piano Trio No 1. The perfect antidote to overstimulation by Smetana, and just as beautifully and skilfully played. Asked afterwards whether they had found the playing exhausting, Qian spoke for all - Not at all. All in a day's work!

Splendid work!

Relaxing with the fans in the Northcott bar
Leonard and Alexander meet
Alexander's 'Alexander' teacher -
'cellist Francesca Neduszinska!

Farewell - and thanks!

Alexander and Wu will be at the 2013 Budleigh Festival - to give a concert of duets at the Temple Church in Budleigh Salterton on Monday 15th July 2013 at 7.30pm -
Watch the festival website for details.

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