The concert began with Rachmaninov’s early Trio élégiaque no 1, given a hauntingly beautiful performance by Trio Apaches. Although the thematic material of this one-movement work is shared between the players it is clear where the composer’s sympathies lay. Necessarily prominent was Ashley Wass, who played the virtuoso piano part with suitable panache but admirable restraint; Thomas Carroll (cello) and Matthew Trusler (violin), both mellow-toned, provided excellent support.
O Duo (Oliver Cox and Owen Gunnell) followed with a show-stopping performance of their own ‘Bongo Fury’, a feast of rhythmic complexity in which the bongos and almost anything in range that can be struck are combined in a joyous celebration of percussion. The audience, now thoroughly won over, enjoyed the contrast of two arranged pieces for tuned percussion – marimba and vibraphone – a Spanish dance by Granados and then ‘Mad Rush’, an organ piece by Philip Glass. It is difficult to imagine this being as sensitively played as it was here, the rippling ostinato figures on the marimba contrasting with the more penetrating sound of the vibraphone.
The high point of the concert was the performance of the trio and percussion arrangement of Shostakovich’s final symphony. This enigmatic piece, which begins and ends with solo glockenspiel, contains many percussive effects which reward the attention of the audience. The paring down of the instrumentation reveals the musical structure in all its complexity. Particularly effective were the moto perpetuo first movement, dominated by the rhythm of the ‘Lone Ranger’ theme from the William Tell overture, and the elegiac second movement with its meandering solo lines and chorale-like dead march. It was in the final movement that the absence of brass and wind was really felt, nevertheless the performance remained a tour de force and brought the season to a fitting climax.