Exquisite barely begins to describe the glories of the all-Austrian programme the Vienna Piano Trio played for Toronto Summer Music at Walter Hall on Wednesday night.
Perhaps exquisitely wrought and deeply heartfelt are better ways of describing the powerful experience of hearing three seasoned musicians, accustomed to playing together for nearly 25 years, applying a combination of intense craftsmanship, wide experience and, ultimately, what sounds like unconditional love to music from their homeland.
Simply put, this was chamber music at its very best.
The warmup piece on the programme was an A-Major Piano Trio, Hob.XV:18, by Joseph Haydn. This is one of several pieces he wrote late in life that are more embellished piano sonatas than true trios.
The star of this work is the pianist, and Stefan Mendl led the musical proceedings with elegance, humour and an impeccable sense of pacing.
The meat of the programme came courtesy of two Romantic greats (and great friends), Johannes Brahms and Robert Schumann.
Both piano trios are the biggest chestnuts of the repertoire — touchstones for budding chamber players and star vehicles for big-name soloists attempting to show off their collaborative chops.
But we rarely hear Brahms’s C-Major Piano Trio No. 2, Op. 87, which dates from 1880, and Schumann’s 1839 Piano Trio No. 1, Op. 63, in D minor, played with as deft a mix of passion and finesse as heard from the Vienna Piano Trio.
This is dense music, full of themes and their developments, wrapped in lush harmonies and interesting rhythmic interplay.
Mendl and his mates, violinist Wolfgang Recik and cellist Matthias Gredler, played as one, shaping every phrase with utmost care and clarity, creating impressively gradual crescendos along the way.
This was intimate music with a power to move and captivate equal to something symphonic or even operatic.
Even the encore, the second movement from Schumann’s more daring third piano trio, managed to sustain the mood.
This was but the latest treat in what is turning out to be an exceptional season at Toronto Summer Music.
The members of the Vienna Piano Trio return with their Toronto Summer Music Academy fellows to present two concerts at Walter Hall on Saturday, at 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. On friday, at 10 a.m., Redik offers a public violin master class at Walter Hall, as well. All the details are here.