This French performance of Beethoven’s Archduke piano trio managed to be suitably aristocratic while demonstrating the qualities of liberty, equality and fraternity. The violinist Renaud Capuçon, his cellist brother Gautier and pianist Frank Braley demonstrated the give-and-take – an instinctive knowledge of who ought to be first amongst equals at any given time – that is the foundation of the best chamber music groups.
This is mature Beethoven and the trio has the scale, intensity and ingenuity of the great symphonies. Braley’s opening chords sounded a mite staid but once the Capuçon brothers launched into the first movement’s main theme the performance never looked back.
Renaud’s cool precision and his younger brother’s romantic swagger complemented each other and Braley, freer and more expressive as the work progressed, matched them. The andante’s theme-and-variations, the work’s expressive heart replete with mercurial changes of mood, were dazzling.
Gautier and Braley opened the concert with Beethoven’s Cello Sonata Op.5 No 1, suitably lightweight and elegant, before Renaud joined Braley for Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No.7. Its C minor key leads us to expect the dramatic and disturbing, and Beethoven packed it with incident. The playing was passionate and impressive, especially in the rhythmically piquant third movement trio.
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