UPDATE – Trio Concertante, 12th October 2019

With two weeks to go, we have nine places available for our next concert:

Beethoven – Piano Trio in D Major, Op.70 No.1, [“Ghost”]
Shostakovich – Piano Trio No.2 in E minor, Op.67
Brahms – Piano Trio No.1 in B Major, Op.8

If you are eager to hear three of the greatest Piano Trios in the repertoire – shortly before they are played at Conway Hall – please get in touch with us as soon as possible!

For full booking instructions, including suggested donations, please have a look at our concerts page.

Trio Concertante – 12th October 2019

This brilliant Piano Trio ensemble will return to Greenacre on Saturday 12 October to perform three of the most sublime works in this genre, and which they’ll be performing at Conway Hall shortly after that:

Beethoven – Piano Trio in D Major, Op.70 No.1, [“Ghost”]

Beethoven’s middle period chamber works include his two Opus 70 Piano Trios. The first, in D major, known as the “Ghost”, is one of his best known works in the genre (rivalled only by the “Archduke”, which we heard at last the previous concert). Beethoven’s pupil, Carl Czerny, wrote in 1842 that the strangely scored and eerie-sounding slow movement of the D Major brought to mind the ghost scene at the opening of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and this was probably the origin of its nickname, with which it has been stuck ever since.

Shostakovich – Piano Trio No.2 in E minor, Op.67

The astonishing work received its premiere in Leningrad on 14 November 1944. The daunting opening theme is composed for solo cello, played entirely on upper-register harmonics, leaving many listeners in a state of unbelieving bewilderment. The whole movement requires incredible technical prowess from the three instrumentalists.

This is followed by (i) a frenzied, unsettled dance; (ii) a sombre largo featuring dark exchanges in the strings against a background of repeated piano chords; and (iii) a “dance of death” followed by echoes of the earlier movements and the Jewish melody quoted by Shostakovich in his 8th String Quartet. The work ends with a barely audible chord in the major key.

Brahms – Piano Trio No.1 in B Major, Op.8

This great lyrical work was composed by Brahms in 1854, but completely revised 36 years later in 1890, losing one-third of its original length. Such is the contrast between the two versions that the revised trio should really be thought of as a different work. In composing the 1890 version Brahms excised several of the original passages, and added much new thematic material. It is the 1890 version that is invariably performed, and which we shall be listening to tonight. It is Brahms’ only work that today has two extant published versions, and one of the very few to begin in a major key and end in the tonic minor. You will be spellbound from first to last!

For full booking instructions, including suggested donations, please have a look at our concerts page. To be sure of a place and avoid the waiting list, please book early.

We look forward to welcoming you on 12th October and thank you, as ever, for your kind support.

Greenwich Piano Trio – 7th September 2019

We begin the Autumn concert season on 7th September with our old friends, the Greenwich Piano Trio (Lana Trotovsek, Violin; Heather Tuach, Cello; and Yoko Misumi, Piano).

And behold the great programme we have for you:

Beethoven – Piano Trio Wo039 in B Flat [Allegretto]

This single movement miniature is a gem of the genre. It is an original Piano Trio composition, and what it lacks in length it more than makes up in feeling. From first to last note it is sublime Beethoven – at his heavenly purest!

Schubert – Notturno D897 in E Flat

This late Schubert single movement work for Piano Trio is a deeply felt Adagio, its unrelenting piano runs and jagged string rhythms swinging between major and minor, pull the heartstrings as only Schubert can do!

Rachmaninov – Trio Elegiaque No 1 in G Minor

The exposition of this one-movement work in sonata form is built on 12 episodes, reversed symmetrically in the recapitulation – a unique invention for the 18-year-old Rachmaninov. The powerful Brahmsian elegiac theme first appears in the piano part, and is marked ‘Lento lugubre’, which says it all! In the sections which follow the elegy is presented by the cello and violin, and after constantly evolving it is ultimately recast as a funeral march – its form highly evocative of Tchaikovsky’s A Minor Piano Trio. When Rachmaninov embarked on his performing tours he selected mainly solo works, so it is unlikely that he would have performed this work on my piano – as we know, this was his instrument of choice whenever he performed in London!

–– INTERVAL ––

Beethoven – Piano Trio in B Flat, Op. 97, ‘Archduke’

This Trio is referred to as the ‘Archduke’, because it was dedicated to Archduke Rudolph of Austria, the youngest of twelve children of Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor. Rudolf was an amateur pianist and a patron, friend, and composition student of Beethoven. Beethoven dedicated a total of fourteen compositions to the Archduke.

Beethoven was 41 years old when he composed it, and by then was completely deaf – despite which he performed the piano part himself at rehearsals, almost destroying the fortepiano by banging the keys in the ‘forte’ passages, while playing inaudibly where the score is marked ‘piano’. After that he gave up public performances! Much as we would love to have heard that, tonight all will be revealed! The sublime music in this four-movement work is better heard than described, so I’ll say no more by way of introduction.

This concert is likely to be fully booked. To be sure of a place and avoid the waiting list, please book early.

For full booking instructions, including suggested donations, please have a look at our concerts page. We look forward to welcoming you on 7th September and thank you, as ever, for your kind support.

Grier Piano and Cello Duo – 6th July 2019

On Saturday 6th July we shall be hosting a programme of great Cello and Piano Sonatas – to be performed by two-thirds of the Grier Piano Trio! While violinist Savitri is otherwise engaged in China with the Berlin Philharmonic – a great tribute to her immense talent – Francis and Indira Grier will perform the following works for Piano and Cello:

  1. BEETHOVEN worked on his third Sonata for Piano and Cello, Opus 69 in A Major, between 1806 and 1808, when his deafness was all but total. In his tragic letter (the “Heiligenstadt Testament”) of 1802, he had admitted harbouring thoughts of suicide. “It was only my art that held me back – Oh, it seemed impossible to leave the world until I had produced all that I felt was within me.”
    Yet this sonata is one of the most positive works imaginable – from the opening phrase it radiates serenity, humour and joy. It is thoroughly classical in structure, with every theme perfectly conceived for both instruments.
  2. SHOSTAKOVICH was on his way to premiere his Sonata for Cello and Piano in D Minor, Opus 40, in 1934, when he read Stalin’s statement in Pravda attacking his music as “bourgeois”. This was the start of a desperately difficult period for the composer, entailing withdrawal of several works from rehearsal and performance – but not, fortunately, this Sonata.
    Written in the style of his large-scale symphonic works, its first movement is in textbook sonata form – even including repeats of the exposition. Yet, unsurprisingly, there is no lack of satire or mockery, particularly in the vehement Scherzo. The aria-like third movement is more compassionate than desolate, with almost Schubertian lyrical grace. The comically sinister finale builds tremendous momentum before coming to an abrupt and unceremonious end.
  3. BRAHMS composed his glorious F Major Sonata for Cello and Piano (Opus 99) while on a summer holiday in Switzerland in 1886. This epic work represents one of the most technically demanding challenges for both performers in the chamber music repertoire. It is a fiery, exultant, heroic, even bombastic, conception – interwoven with the many heavenly themes we expect of late Brahms.
    At its core lies a breathtakingly beautiful slow movement labelled “adagio affettuoso”, words that clearly held special significance for him; it concludes with an ineffable sense of lasting peace and serenity.

To be sure of a place and avoid the waiting list, please book early.

For full booking instructions, including suggested donations, please have a look at our concerts page. We look forward to welcoming you on 6th July and thank you, as ever, for your kind support.

Roskell Piano Trio – 25th May 2019

The Roskell Piano Trio (Penelope Roskell, Ruth Schulten and Heather Tuach) grew out of Penelope Roskell’s long-standing collaboration with the Fitzwilliam String Quartet, with whom she has performed much of the Piano Quintet repertoire. The Trio is in residence at London’s Sutton House, where it gave its first sell-out performance in 2011.

We are now delighted to offer Maxability’s supporters an opportunity to hear the Roskell Piano Trio perform three of the most wonderful works in the genre:

  • Mozart – Piano Trio in B Flat, K.502
  • Mendelssohn – Piano Trio in D Minor, Op. 49
  • Beethoven – Piano Trio in D Major, Op. 70 (“Ghost”)
  1. Mozart
    In this Trio the ensemble’s most prominent role is occupied by the piano – which is hardly surprising when we remember that the extraordinary spirit Mozart breathed into his keyboard trios corresponded with the very time that the harpsichord was being replaced by the pianoforte. Mozart’s great and enduring contribution to the Piano Trio medium began in 1786 with the brilliant work we shall hear tonight, composed immediately after Marriage of Figaro, and just before his Prague Symphony.
  2. Mendelssohn
    More than fifty years later Mendelssohn completed his 4-movement D Minor Piano Trio, one of the most popular works in the repertoire. Together with his Op.20 Octet, this Trio is recognised as one of Mendelssohn’s finest chamber compositions. When Robert Schumann heard it he declared Mendelssohn to be “the Mozart of the nineteenth century, the brightest musician, who most clearly understands the contradictions of the age and is the first to reconcile them.”
  3. Beethoven
    The D Major Piano Trio, the first of Beethoven’s two Opus 70 trios, is known as the Ghost, and is one of his best-known works in the chamber music genre, rivalled only by the “Archduke” (which we shall be hearing later this year). The Opus 70 Trio gained its “Ghost” subtitle when Beethoven’s pupil, Czerny, wrote in 1842 that the slow movement brought to his mind the ghost scene at the opening of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and this apt epithet has stuck with the work ever since.

We are clearly in for another wonderful evening – please book early to avoid a waiting list.

For full booking instructions, including suggested donations, please have a look at our concerts page. We look forward to welcoming you on 25th May and thank you, as ever, for your kind support.

Bottrill Duo – 27th April 2019

You will be delighted to learn that on 27th April (starting at 7pm) we shall once again be welcoming the Bottrill Piano Duo.

As many of you know, the dynamic range of our Steinway D Concert Grand is most fully displayed when piano duets are performed on it. The wonderful Bottrill Piano Duo (Zrinka and Andrew) is favouring us with a return visit that will include two of the greatest works ever composed for this medium.

The two principal works will be:

  • Schubert’s Fantasie in F Minor, D.940 [Op. Posthumous]

    Once heard, never forgotten, this late work, composed only months before his death at the age of 31, has its place in the pantheon of late Schubert works, alongside the C Major String Quintet, the G Major Quartet (Performed by the Fitzwilliams at the last concert) and his last Symphony, no. 9 in C Major, D.944.

    Musicologist Christopher Gibbs has described this work as “among not only his greatest, but his most original compositions for piano duet”. It was dedicated to Karoline Esterhazy, with whom Schubert was in (unrequited) love. Four months after his death it was published by Anton Diabelli. Its original manuscript resides in the Austrian National Library in Vienna.

  • Mozart’s Last Sonata for 4 Hands in C Major [K. 521, 1787]

    Even Mozart proclaimed, in a typical understatement, that performing this 3-movement sonata is “rather difficult”! Both parts are equally demanding, and the opening and closing movements are of exceptional brilliance. Having said that, the sonata breathes grace and elegance in the same vein as Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, composed just two months later.

Interspersed between these pillars of the classical repertoire we shall hear a number of shorter gems by Dvorak and Janacek (both arranged for four hands by Andrew, this being their first performance), Poulenc’s 1918 Sonata, and finishing with a Spanish Dance by Manuel Da Falla.

What a comprehensive confection! It might be useful to print out these programme notes and bring them with you.

For full booking instructions, including suggested donations, please have a look at our concerts page. We look forward to welcoming you on 27th April and thank you, as ever, for your kind support and co-operation.

Fitzwilliam String Quartet – 23rd March 2019

Our next concert, on 23 March, will be exceptional – both in terms of the music, and the musicians who will perform it!

Having just celebrated their 50th year in existence, the Fitzwilliam String Quartet is one of the longest established Quartet ensembles in the world, and their violist, Alan George, is one of the original Cambridge undergraduates who formed it in 1968.

Alan obviously knows, and has performed, just about everything in the genre. So after the last FSQ concert at Greenacre, I naively asked him to name what he considered to be the truly greatest quartet ever composed. He thought carefully, but not overlong. “Sorry”, he said, “there isn’t just one such quartet, there are two. In my opinion, the two greatest quartets ever composed are Schubert’s last quartet in G Major – and the very last quartet that Beethoven completed, Opus 131 in C Sharp Minor.”

And that, friends, is the programme for the next concert! Maxability audiences are immeasurably privileged to hear the FSQ in a real “Chamber Music” setting, and you hardly need to know more than that before booking a place!

The two works were completed within a fortnight of each other, respectively in June 1826 (Schubert) and July 1826 (Beethoven), when both were very close to the end of their lives, aged 31 and 57 respectively. When Schubert heard a performance of the Beethoven quartet, he said “after this, what’s left for us to write?”

Yet his own final quartet in G, although utterly different, is equally remarkable. Its opening is unforgettable. It is launched by a swelling chord that slips from G Major to G Minor before reaching a leaping motif in dotted rhythms – and then a haunting passage of shivering mystery…….no words can convey what follows. Just listen.

Only five days before he died in November 1828 Schubert’s final request to his closest friends was for them to perform Beethoven’s C Sharp Minor Quartet.

Beethoven considered this quartet to be his “most perfect single work”. Robert Schumann said that this quartet “had a grandeur that no words can express. It seems to me to stand on the extreme boundary of all that has hitherto been attained by human art and imagination.” It consists of seven movements played without a break, the 6th lasting barely 10 seconds, and only the first and last movements are in the key of C Sharp Minor. When listening to this astonishing creation you will recognise above all that, in Beethoven, form and content are inseparable: the medium and the message are one.

For full booking instructions, including suggested donations, please have a look at our concerts page. We look forward to welcoming you on 23rd March.

Vitaly Pisarenko – 2nd March 2019

Piano recitals are an ideal medium for our ‘chamber’ concert evenings. Apart from the shared intimacy afforded by the the full range of tones of our wonderful Steinway concert grand, it enables us to allocate more space to seating than is possible when we host larger ensembles.

I am therefore delighted to announce that for our 2nd March concert that renowned young Ukrainian keyboard master, Vitaly Pisarenko, will perform a varied programme of works by Brahms, Schumann, Liszt and Chopin.

Vitaly Pisarenko, born in Kiev, gave his first public recital at the age of 6, and after winning First Prize at the International Franz Liszt Piano Competition in 2008, Vitaly performed in over 25 countries worldwide – from Korea to Chile and Indonesia to Brazil – as well as in several French, German, Dutch and Italian Music Festivals.

He has made extensive international tours with leading orchestras, and performed in London at the Wigmore Hall, Cadogan Hall, St John’s Smith Square and St James Piccadilly. Later this year he will perform in Netherlands, Mexico, Turkey, Hong Kong and South Africa.

1st Half – Brahms & Schumann

In the first half of his recital Vitaly will perform the irresistibly haunting Theme & Variations (Op. 18b) of Brahms’ own piano rendition of the second movement of his String Sextet, dedicated to Clara Schumann as a birthday gift; followed by his Opus 4 Scherzo.

He will then perform Robert Schumann’s exhilarating G Minor Sonata – the first movement of which is famously marked ‘to be played as quickly as possible’. Schumann obviously had a keen sense of humour, because near the end it is marked “faster” and, just before the close, “faster still”! The gentle slow movement is followed by a breathtaking finale.

2nd Half – Liszt & Chopin

We shall hear two of Chopin’s Scherzos, and Liszt’s two Ballades. Liszt’s B Minor Ballade is linked to the Byzantine myth of Leander and Hero, the priestess of Aphrodite, who dwelt in a tower on the European side of the Dardanelles. Her lover, Leander, would swim every night across the Hellespont, guided by a lamp lit by Hero at the top of her tower… until one stormy night the wind blew out Hero’s light, Leander lost his way and was drowned. Hero, grief-stricken, threw herself from her tower.

You will gather that this promises to be an exceptional programme, and we are privileged to have secured Vitaly’s attendance in the midst of his impossible schedule of international tours. Not to be missed!

Those of you who completed the advance booking sheet at our concert on 2nd February need not respond to this email invitation, but if you have not booked you will appreciate the importance of responding soon – this will assuredly be a sell-out.

For full booking instructions, including suggested donations, please have a look at our concerts page. We look forward to welcoming you on 2nd March.

Atsuko Kawakami – 2nd February 2019

Our star performer on this occasion will be the brilliant Japanese pianist Atsuko Kawakami, in her first Maxability solo performance, and her selection of timeless gems provides us with one of our most memorable recital programmes ever!

The programme details are as follows:

  1. Sonata in C Major by Galuppi, a contemporary of Scarlatti.
  2. Beethoven’s Sonata in F Minor, Op.57 (‘Appassionata’) – one of his most profound keyboard masterpieces.
  3. Granados’ Op. 11 Suite, ‘Goyescas’, usually considered the composer’s crowning creation, inspired by the paintings of Goya. This haunting, evocative piece, No 4 in the suite, is sub-titled ‘The Maiden and the Nightingale’.
  4. Frederic Chopin: Polonaise in C Sharp Minor, Op.26 No.1; Mazurka in A Minor, Op. 17 No.4; and Atsuko will conclude her recital with his breathtaking 4th Ballade in F minor Op. 52.

With less than two weeks to go, there are now only EIGHT places still available at this concert. Please book very soon if you would like to attend.

For full booking instructions, including suggested donations, please have a look at our concerts page. We look forward to hearing from you, with best wishes to all of you for 2019.

UPDATE – Rosamunde Piano Trio, 17th November 2018

With only two weeks to go before one of Maxability’s major events of 2018, there are still some places available for the final concert of this year, on Saturday 17th November at 7 pm.

Living on the spot, Anita and Emile don’t need to travel to hear great music – but they would go a long way to experience tonight’s two main works, performed by the widely renowned Rosamunde Piano Trio.

The first is one of Mendelssohn’s most romantic and melody-filled chamber compositions, the deeply-moving Piano Trio No.2 in C minor, Op.66.

The second is one of Shostakovich’s most profound works – Piano Trio No.2 in E minor, Op.67. Its opening theme is breathtakingly etched on the upper harmonics of the Cello strings with no vibrato – a challenge to every cellist who has ever been brave enough to embrace this staggering work.

As with so many of our performances, ‘once heard, never forgotten!’

Star players occasionally perform at Greenacre as a sort of ‘run-through’ for a South Bank, Wigmore or King’s Place booking, but this time it’s the other way around – when you hear them on 17th they will already have performed the identical programme at King’s Place! So they will be well-rehearsed, relaxed and eager to give their best in this strikingly original programme.

For full booking instructions, including suggested donations, please have a look at our concerts page.