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29th June, 7.30pm
The Mithras Trio
St John the Baptist Church, EN5 4BW

Camille Saint-Saëns: Piano Trio No. 1 in F Major, Op. 18

Germaine Tailleferre: Piano Trio

Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Trio No. 7 in Bb Major, Op. 97


we chatted with cellist Leo to get to know the trio...

Sticking together as a young chamber ensemble is notoriously difficult. Personalities clash, people move around, or things just don’t work out. And yet, you three have been working together, with real success, for 8 years now: what’s the secret?

Being kind, flexible, understanding, and most importantly maintaining a passion for playing together - for the repartee as well as the repertoire.

When we chatted three years ago you singled out performing at Trondheim as the trio’s favourite musical experience. Since then you’ve played all over the place including the Purcell Room, Wigmore Hall, and abroad. Where has been your favourite place to play?


It’s a very special feeling walking out on to the stage of the Wigmore Hall, but we have also discovered some real hidden gems like the Quaker Hall in Letchworth - you can hear a pin drop!


Tell us a bit about the programme you’ll be performing at the Festival. Why are you playing these works?

All three pieces are vibrant and full of life, but offer three completely distinct and contrasted styles. Beethoven’s famous ‘Archduke’ Trio is the most mature of his complete piano trios, and deservedly ranks among the great masterpieces of our repertoire for its grandeur and depth of feeling. By contrast Saint-Saëns’ first trio is an early work, inspired by a holiday in the Pyrenees and full of freshness and rustic charm. The Tailleferre Trio is a hidden gem, her neoclassical language a febrile melting pot of twentieth-century French compositional styles. One can hear echoes of everything from Fauré to Ravel to Poulenc - and often a hint of jazz!


All three of these composers were pianists; indeed, both Beethoven and Saint-Saëns premiered these trios. Does that seem to have an effect on the interplay between the instruments or their roles in the music?


It is certainly the case in the Beethoven and Saint-Saëns that the piano is unusually prominent (and virtuosic)! Unfortunately for Beethoven, the premier of the ‘Archduke’ was something of a disaster as he was almost completely deaf by that point - it was his last public appearance as a performer. Louis Spohr wrote that ‘on account of his deafness there was scarcely anything left of the virtuosity of the artist which had formerly been so greatly admired. In forte passages the poor deaf man pounded on the keys until the strings jangled, and in piano he played so softly that whole groups of notes were omitted, so that the music was unintelligible unless one could look into the pianoforte part. I was deeply saddened at so hard a fate’.


The Tailleferre had a curious gestation: she began the work in 1916, then it was interrupted by the First World War, and she only finished it off 60 years later. Do you think that long gap has an effect on the music? Is it apparent?


Her style remains remarkably similar - if there is a difference to detect in the 2nd and 4th movements (which were written at the end of her life), it would be an even greater sense of fun with more sudden contrasts. (Perhaps more Poulenc than Ravel…)


If our audience wanted to listen to some other music related to your programme, what would you recommend?


Similar in period and style to the Tailleferre are the wonderful pair of pieces by Lili Boulanger, D’un soir triste and D’un matin de printemps.

If you’re after more from Beethoven’s glorious middle period then his Cello Sonata in A Major, Razumovsky Quartets and Violin Concerto in D Major spring to mind.


And finally, if you were a pasta sauce, what would you be and why?


A rich ragu. We don’t hold back!

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