The Beethoven Piano Trios are at the heart of the chamber music repertoire and are jewels of inventiveness, intimacy of communication and distilled thought. And one of these perfect little works is played at each of five monthly concerts at St James's Piccadilly, from March to July.
Pianist Warren Mailley-Smith is the musician who links all five events, but on every occasion he is joined by a different violinist and cellist, not only for Beethoven, but also for attractive and refreshingly different contemporary pieces.
Martyn Jackson plays the violin on 3 May
Several of the Beethoven trios are from the Opus 1 set, but despite that classification, they are far from Beethoven's first works, such are the vagaries of numbering compositions. They were written when Beethoven was 25, and already a sought-after and innovative composer, and they were performed in similarly elegant surroundings – the Viennese home of Prince Karl Lichnowsky, to whom they are dedicated.
This gracious Alstergasse apartment was briefly the composer's home too: he arrived with a letter of introduction three years earlier, and was taken up by the music-loving prince, who put up with the composer's famously irrascible behaviour and gave him lodgings and money.
In the first concert (1 March), an Opus 1 Trio is played with music by Mendelssohn, another master of chamber music, and Nothing Forgotten by the modern composer Hilary Tann, which references traditional Adirondack songs. Matthew Jones (violin) and Cara Berridge (cello) join Mailley-Smith.
Harriet Mackenzie plays the violin at the last concert on 19 July
A trio from the later, Opus 70, set is played next. These trios were published in 1809, during Beethoven's middle years, and dedicated to another generous patron, Countess Marie von Erdody. Miriam Teppich (violin) and Pavlos Carvalho (cello) are the guest artists in Beethoven's 'The Ghost' and a delightful Tchaikovsky trio, plus an irresistibly rhythmic Spring from The Four Seasons by Argentinian Astor Piazzolla (5 April).
Continuing this dance-like theme, a piece by the jazz musician Chick Corea is played with a Beethoven Opus 1 trio and a trio by Schubert when Martyn Jackson and Rowena Calvert are the guest violinist and cellist respectively (3 May).
The great Archduke trio, first performed with Beethoven himself at the piano in 1814, is played by Zoë Beyers (violin), Victoria Simonsen (cello) and Mailley-Smith at the penultimate concert in the series, when Clara Schumann's Piano Trio in G minor is also performed, with minimalist American composer Philip Glass's Head On (14 June).
Cellist Tim Lowe plays Beethoven on 19 July
For the grand finale of this Piccadilly Chamber Music series (19 July), Harriet Mackenzie (violin) and Tim Lowe (cello) play a Beethoven Opus 1 trio with Dvorak's 'Dumky' trio and a world premiere of a new commission by Melanie Spanswick.
Firm favourites and exciting new pieces make promising companions in this most appealing series. Catch the whole series, and hear the Beethoven story unfold in music, in the year leading up to the 250th anniversary of his birth, 2020. There is going to be a lot of Beethoven around shortly: you can't start too early!
|What||The Great Romantics, St James's Church, Piccadilly|
|Where||St James's Church, 197 Piccadilly, London , W1J 9LL | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Piccadilly Circus (underground)|
01 Mar 19 – 19 Jul 19, five monthly concerts
|Website||Click here for more information and booking|