Music at Paxton

Leonore Trio

Picture Gallery, Paxton House

Keith Bruce

five stars

AN intense weekend of music-making on the closing days of director Angus Smith’s first Paxton programme brought together the talents of the Maxwell Quartet, beginning a three-year association with the event, and the Leonore Trio, with whom Smith is associated in his other job at Sheffield’s Crucible theatre.

The Leonore began their presentation of major works from the history of composition for piano, violin and cello with Mozart and Brahms (with Haydn and Beethoven following). Mozart’s Piano Trio in B flat major may date from a time when he and Constanze were likely not doing a lot of entertaining, but its performance was perfectly placed in this venue, dating from exactly the right period, although with probably rather more of us in the room that it would have seen in the 1780s.

Pianist Tim Horton was very much to the fore for the bulk of the first two movements, the themes only passed to violinist Benjamin Nabarro and cellist Gemma Rosefield after they were thoroughly tested on the keyboard. In the Allegretto, Nabarro had the opportunity to kick off and dominate the music before the counterpoint has phrases passed around for all three to share the leading voice.

In its revised version from his later years, Brahms’s Piano Trio No 1 is a huge work, often a showcase for the cellist, and featured exquisite playing from Gemma Rosefield. There was perfect communication with her partners in the group in the ebb and flow of pace and dynamics in the opening movements, with much from her, and she eventually had the main melody in the powerful Adagio as well. It is the heart of the work, to which the trio brought a profound intensity, before Rosefield’s cello moved the narrative on again into the choppier waters of the deliberately ambivalent finale.