Ensemble Avalon


Dublin City Gallery, the Hugh Lane

Beethoven – Violin Sonata in F Op 24 “Spring“; Piano Trio in C minor Op 1 No 3

THE PIANO TRIO in C minoris the last in a set of three which together form the young Beethoven’s first published work. It was very much Beethoven setting out his stall as a composer. Whereas his immediate forebears in Vienna – Haydn and Mozart – had upheld and refined the piano trio as domestic or salon music, Beethoven almost immediately turned it into something extroverted and big, like a symphony reduced to piano, violin and cello.

A spirit of newness and of grand scale was faithfully evoked by the Ensemble Avalon in a performance that, when needed, generated a stirring orchestral bigness without any suggestion of coarseness or strain. Equally, in the work’s quieter passages – notably the slow second movement’s variations – there was a contrasting sense of repose and a return to the more intimate quality of chamber music in the style of Haydn.

In this work the pianist is cast in the role of Beethoven, an artist trying to make as big a splash with his playing – he gave his first public concert in Vienna in the same year that he published the Op 1set – as with his composing. The Avalon’s Michael McHale took to the role with great integrity, perhaps never intending to match the larger-than-life image we have of Beethoven, but playing with an intense controlled passion, leading from the front, and exercising a wide range of expression.

McHale brought these same qualities to his comfortable partnership with violinist Ioana Petcu-Colan in the Spring sonata. Even in the midst of the more vigorous technical challenges of the finale, the duo maintained a companionable sense of inter-play and balance.