Wednesday 2nd December 2015

Beethoven – Trio in Bb major, Op.11
Brahms – Clarinet Sonata No.2 in Eb major, Op.120
Beethoven – Cello Sonata No.3 in A major, Op.69
Brahms – Clarinet Trio in A minor, Op. 114

Michael Collins has been referred to by The Times as 'one of the best clarinettists walking the planet'. Popular with Ilkley Concert Club members, he is known for his incomparable skill and musicianship. German-born Leonard Elschenbroich, a former BBC New Generation Artist, is considered to be one of the most charismatic young cellists around. The 'instantly engaging' Michael McHale is one of the leading Irish pianists of his generation.

Two of the late Brahms works for clarinet inspired by the playing of another extraordinary virtuoso are combined with Beethoven's early clarinet trio and his lyrical and self-confident op. 69 cello sonata to give an evening of delights.


Core Repertoire Brilliantly Played for the Ilkley Concert Club

Although far from recondite the previous Dvorak and Janacek programme had clearly been a step too far for some, so for them this one was a welcome return to the familiar judging by the lack of empty seats. For all it was an evening of superb performances. The programme of music by just two composers had been cleverly devised to give maximum variety. Trios for clarinet, cello and piano by Beethoven and Brahms leavened by sonatas for cello and clarinet respectively.

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Throughout pianist Michael McHale gave superb support to his colleagues, especially so in the Brahms items whose piano parts are both difficult and often over-stuffed with notes. Yet never once did he overwhelm his partners; for me he was the unsung hero of the evening.

But that is not to downgrade the others. I have admired Michael Collins’ playing since his early days with the London Sinfonietta. He was as ever marvellous, dynamic when required to be but also supremely sensitive. Cellist Leonard Elschenbroich was new to me and his playing was full of beauty of line and eloquent expressiveness.

The concert began with the early Beethoven Trio op.11, a work full of exuberant invention and energy to which the performers responded with delight. From youth to older age with Brahms’ second clarinet sonata, a work which like much ‘late ‘ Brahms can succumb to melancholy if not played with the backbone that Collins and McHale brought to it.

Then it was Elschenbroich’s turn to shine with Beethoven’s glorious A Major Sonata op. 69. Tough competition here, all the world’s great cellists have made memorable recordings of it, but he held his own with playing that was inward when required to be and full-toned and extravert elsewhere, ably supported by his ever-attentive ‘accompanist’.

Finally more ‘late’ Brahms. His Trio op 114. put the trio back together for a performance that showed their empathetic sense of ensemble and joy in music-making. It was greeted by rapturous and richly deserved applause.


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