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Gould Piano Trio

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Gould Piano Trio press reviews

BBC Music Magazine, Wigmore Live CD
James Macmillan's Fourteen Little Pieces for piano trio are only "little" in clock time. Taken together (they unfold continuously) they add up to one of MacMillan's most convincing large scale structures. At the same time the need to concentrate thoughts and feelings into tiny spans gives his characteristic intensity extra bite and focus. The style is MacMillan at his least audience friendly.

The keening Celtic lyricism of many MacMillan scores is there, along with the familiar bluntly primitive gestures (especially the ending). But the twilit, haunted mood and fragmentary whispered textures, especially in the earlier movements, veer closer to the world of Schoenbergian expressionism than one usually expects in MacMillan.

In the end - as so often with MacMillan's music - one wonders what kind of drama, or ritual, is being enacted here? Does the number 14 invite direct comparison with the Stations of the Cross? The three excellent musicians of the Gould Trio make every detail tell in this live performance, while ensuring that the sense of mysterious progress is not lost.

They're also very fine in the Schubert Trio, steering a mid-course between Trio Wanderer's bracing Classicism (on Harmonia Mundi) and the Beaux Arts Trio's finely shaded Romanticism (on Philips). Benjamin Frith's delicious repeated notes in the finales are specially memorable. Clear, well-balanced recordings, with minimal obtrusive audience noises, serve the music making very well.

Performance *****
Recording ****

The Independent, March 2009, Wigmore Live CD
Has James MacMillan swallowed the Oxford Dictionary of Music? It's not often that you see the marking "strepitoso" (boisterous), but this is just one colour in his 1997 series of miniatures for piano trio, 'Fourteen Little Pictures'. Rebarbative, fidgety, wistful and, in the final movement, brooding, his snapshots are realised as meticulously and elegantly as Schubert's Piano Trio in E flat in this live performance by the Gould Piano Trio. Beautifully balanced, this bizarre juxtaposition of composers works suprisingly well.

Pick of the Album: The superb performance of Schubert's 'Finale: Allegro moderato'

Sunday Times, February 2009. Wigmore Live, Macmillan/Schubert disc
Restraint is the obvious hallmark of the Gould Trio’s performance of Schubert’s great, expansive, late E flat major piano trio, recorded at a Wigmore Hall concert last July. Anything labelled “allegro” (as three of the four movements are) is taken at a speed more cautious. This suits the piece perfectly, for it is poised on that knife edge between sadness and contentment, and any hint of abandon might destroy that balance. This beautiful performance is preceded by a vivid reading of James MacMillan’s Fourteen Little Pictures (1997). It’s a compelling, 23-minute piano suite, relying on extreme contrasts of mood, texture and colour, and ending with a single tolling bass note.

Tim Homfray The Strad October 2008
Schubert’s other great piano trio, the one in E flat major, featured in the Gould Piano Trio’s concert at the Wigmore Hall on 17 July.  The players opened with Mozart’s B flat major Trio K502, which received crisp playing, full of charm, with an easy humour in the second movement.  It was followed by James MacMillan’s 14 Little Pictures from 1997, a set of miniatures run together into a work of often haunting eloquence, here from cellist Alice Neary in particular.  Violinist Lucy Gould had moments of birdlike twittering, and indeed there were times when both string players sounded like a couple of mournful tenor seagulls.  Their performance of the Schubert was monumental.  The first movement built up to a coda of tremendous grandeur, and Neary was notable again in the second, with her playing beautifully simple at the opening.  The second theme here was played with a captivating, slightly exaggerated lilt, and the climaxes had huge power and majesty.

Sunday Times, January 2008 RNCM Mozart Festival
As for Mozart’s writing for string trio, a rapturously nimble performance by the Gould Piano Trio (with the viola player James Boyd substituting for the pianist) of the late Divertimento in E flat, K563, left no doubt that this six-movement suite is a precursor both in form and sublimity to Beethoven’s late quartets.

Reviews for the Gould Piano Trio's recent CD
Brahms, Piano Trios - Volume One
Quartz - QTZ2011

Reviewed in The Sunday Times, 30 January 2005
The hyper-self-critical Brahms destroyed more chamber music than he published. Luckily, the B major piano trio, written when he was only 21, escaped. Many years later, he revised and tightened it in a composite version that preserved and enhanced the magnificent sweep and energy of the original. By contrast, the late C major trio, masterly though it is, wants something of the B major’s freshness of inspiration; but the performance by the Gould Trio is so good – strong, passionate and at the same time delicate – that you are hardly conscious of any lack. They are equally fine in the glorious B major.

Reviewed in The Observer, 17 April 2005
The first of a three-volume, set of complete Brahms trios, with the rest (including horn and clarinet trios) to follow at six-monthly intervals, this elegant, spirited coupling of the first and second piano trios bodes well for the rest of the cycle. Cellist Alice Neary and pianist Benjamin Frith have developed a deep musical understanding with violinist Lucy Gould as her trio tour the UK, Europe and the US in this repertoire, combining a youthful freshness with virtuoso panache as their talents merge into a richly cohesive whole.

Reviewed in The Daily Telegraph, 18 June 2005
The Gould Piano Trio have won plaudits for recordings of Mendelssohn and Beethoven. Here, they are just as persuasive in two contrasting trios by Brahms: the youthful, lyrically expansive B major - drastically revised by the composer in his fifties - and the glorious C major, no less luxuriant in its themes, but far tauter in their development.

Compared with some other groups, the Gould may initially seem to favour Classical restraint over heroic, full-blooded Romanticism. But it soon emerges that their refinement and emphasis on light, lucid textures by no means preclude an authentic Brahmsian intensity.

The Gould are especially good at seeing a movement whole; and if an apparent climax seems underplayed, it will always be because they are eyeing the real climax later in the piece. They have a subtle feeling, too, for the expressive crux of Brahms's long, arching phrases. Both the darting, crepuscular scherzos gain from the Gould's unusual delicacy of touch, while their rarefied playing of the B major's adagio is as moving as any of their emotionally charged rivals.

From the Gramophone, April 2005
Lucy Gould and her colleagues play Op 8’s first movement suavely, with lovely tone and refined expression…In the Scherzo…the Gould Trio, with their lightness of touch , make a special, slightly sinister effect in the quiet passages and, by this delicacy, enhance the explosive impact of the sudden fortes…Benjamin Frith’s ringing tone and virtuoso panache making the most of the brilliant piano writing…the Gould’s superb control and rhythmic precision brings the symphonic argument of the first movement and the Scherzo’s nocturnal rustlings into sharp relief.