Sitkovetsky Piano Trio

Alexander Sitkovetsky Violin

Wu Qian Piano

Richard Harwood Cello


Sitkovetsky Trio at Wigmore Hall

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Sitkovetsky Trio matches formidable technique with a mature understanding of the music played and a complete lack of any self-indulgence. These three performances exuded commitment and enthusiasm.

Beethoven’s ‘Ghost’ Trio was a performance of youthful passion and energy. The first movement was very brisk but never felt rushed, the swifter tempos adding a feeling of urgency. Wu Qian’s fluid runs on the piano provided a steady platform on which Alexander Sitkovetsky and Leonard Elschenbroich built-on with a rich, warm tone, the three musicians finely balanced. They didn’t linger over the ‘ghost’ slow movement, but their concentrated approach captured its “atmospheric shudderings”. If the finale was taken at breakneck pace, it was notable for precision of ensemble.

The freshness and vitality of the Mendelssohn was a welcome contrast, sounding full of exuberance. Wu Qian’s darting pianism was a delight in the outer movements, all three musicians bringing a joyful sense of music-making. There was much to enjoy, particularly the long, elegant lines drawn by Elschenbroich, whose richness of tone was a delight throughout.

Smetana’s Piano Trio was partly inspired by the death of his daughter when an infant. A sense of grief is present throughout and Alexander Sitkovetsky beautifully caught the opening cry of despair. Tempos, again, were on the swift side, but this was also a searching interpretation, fully capturing Smetana’s shifting moods from outright sorrow to the wistfulness of the central movement’s two trios and the exuberance of the finale.

by Andrew Maisel

Breathtaking Playing By Overseas Trio

13th March 2009

THE fifth concert in Hexham Music Society’s season, attended by a large and enthusiastic audience in the Queen’s Hall, last Friday was proof indeed that music is a universal language.

For we were treated to an evening of astonishingly mature music-making by three superb young musicians, all former students at the Yehudi Menuhin School, from China, Russia and Germany.

Concerto-like writing for the keyboard is a feature of many a piano trio, the result frequently being a battle royal between it and the two string instruments.

Not so on this occasion, however, as it was evident from the outset that here were three sensitive and highly accomplished musicians.

The opening item, the first of Rachmaninov’s two Elegiac Trios, if not one of his greatest compositions, is a piece full of characteristically soulful themes and virtuosic pianism, its performance setting the standard for the evening.

In Mendelssohn’s Second Piano Trio, with its hugely demanding piano part, balance and ensemble were again impeccable, whilst the composer’s romantic ardour was given full rein. The slow movement, for instance, often treated as a mere salon piece, had an almost Puccini-like intensity.

We have been privileged this season to hear some outstanding pianists, and the breathtaking fluency and thrilling dynamic range of Qian Wu’s playing meant that she joined these illustrious ranks from the moment she sat down at the piano.

Alexander Sitkovetsky, violin, and Leonard Elsenbroich, cello, proved her equal; both responding with richness of tone and seemingly effortless brilliance to the lyrical and technical demands of all three compositions in the programme.

Smetana was a composer who experienced more than his fair share of tragedy and his G Minor Trio, for all its momentary orchestral tendencies, is surely one of the finest chamber-music works to be born of grief and loss, and it was given a heartfelt performance.

Applause in this acoustic tends to die all too quickly; on this occasion, however, it was loud and long, eliciting an encore, a repeat of Mendelssohn’s slow movement.

Have no doubt: these three fine young musicians are destined for the world stage and should be invited back to Hexham as soon as possible.

by Noel Broome

The Strad Magazine April 2008

29th Jan, 2008 Purcell Room, South Bank

I returned to the bunker once more for a piano trio recital under the aegis of the Philharmonia Orchestras Martin Musical Scholarship Fund.

The acoustic does have one advantage in putting a lid on the piano sound, though it certainly helped that Qian Wu wasn’t out to conquer the world, or her colleagues, with some potentially overwhelming piano writing in Rachmaninoff’s Trio Elegiaque. Perhaps surprising clarity of its single movement sonata form was well delineated, while ripe contributions from cellist Leonard Elschenbroich and violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky, heavy with Russian soul, looked forward to the heavy breathing Rachmaninoff of popular fame.

The two string players took a while to move on from such emphatic declamation in Mendelssohn D minor Trio, not matching Wu’s capriciously pointed finger work at the keyboard until the faerie Scherzo. The search for a truly integrated collective sound – especially tricky with a piano trio – continued in the Schubert’s first piano trio D 899 in ample compensation, though, we were given a reading of unbounded, tireless energy, sensibly placed with plenty of repeats. The second themes were not always ideally relaxed, but they grew in good spirits, and Elschenbroich seized his big moment with the wonderful third theme of the finale. Late Schubert – the great C major Symphony, Winterreise – tends not merely to portray but to embody momentum, precipitating exhaustion. Certainly all three look shattered by the end, and they deserved to be. Bravo!