CLASSICAL MUSIC : Andras Schiff Wigmore Hall Howard Shelley Barbican

It's odd that we speak of "violin sonatas" when in the Classical period they called them sonatas for piano and violin, in that order. Yet we talk of piano trios and piano quartets, as if the strings were accompanying instruments.

In terms of balance, the problem in modern performances tends to be the piano's loudness. Last Tuesday, in the final concert of Andras Schiff's Wigmore Hall series of Brahms chamber music with piano, that imbalance wasn't noticeable, because Schiff played, considerately, with a light touch and discreet use of the pedal. In spite of which, in the most genial of Brahms's violin sonatas, No 2 in A major, he seemed mainly to determine the character of the performance with his gently billowing phrasing and affectionate dwelling on the first note of both main themes in the opening movement. The violinist, Erich Hobarth, played cleanly but rather drily - a more ample and luscious tone would have brought a more vibrant presence to what is the simplest, most contented of Brahms's violin sonatas. After all, a duo sonata is not a two-person committee in which individual personalities are eliminated. Both partners need to co-operate, but also to project like soloists.

Hobarth seemed less reserved once the fine cellist Miklos Perenyi joined him and Schiff in the Second Piano Trio in C, one of the least widely known of Brahms's chamber works. It has a particularly attractive, mysteriously shivering Scherzo, and before it, a second movement in the form of variations, which had the two string players digging away in a spirit of friendly sparring, pre-echoing Brahms's energetic Double Concerto.

In Brahms's Third Piano Quartet in C minor, Schiff's wife, Yuuko Shiokawa, took the violin part, with Nobuko Imai on viola. Despite Imai's one, incautiously vibratoladen entry during the first movement, the players kept themselves on a tight rein, and Perenyi's solo at the start of the third movement was beautifully steady and controlled. Surely, though, the Scherzo could have been a bit more dynamic, less proper, and Shiokawa might have made her dying falls in the wistful coda of the Finale a touch more affecting. Still, for those who suspect Brahms of gushing, Schiff and Co restored a sense of emotional restraint.

The same work ended the Barbican concert on Saturday evening, given by the LSO Chamber Ensemble - pianist Howard Shelley, violinist Marcia Crayford, viola-player Andrei Vijtovich and cellist Tim Hugh. (The three string players are Principals in the orchestra.) For sheer beauty of sound and blend they probably had the edge on Schiff's group, though comparisons between performances in such different acoustics are hardly possible.

The central work was Rachmaninov's Cello Sonata - more usually heard at the end of recitals because of its emotional power and heroic proportions. It's also very much weighted in the pianist's favour, but although Shelley broke a string. which he pulled out of the piano and showed the audience like a trophy, the Barbican Hall did a lot to disperse the torrential impact of his part.

Tim Hugh is a wonderful player, with a beautifully even, warm sound, but the effect wouldn't have been less if he had seemed to struggle a bit - the piano sounded too distant from the audience, rather like a recording where the balance has been adjusted. There wasn't a single ugly sound, either, in the very polished performance of Shostakovich's grim Second Piano Trio, written at the end of the War, which began the evening. With music which is so joyless, and whose energy seems like desperation, you might as well be as harsh as you can.

Adrian Jack

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams looks concerned as Arya Stark
tv
Arts and Entertainment
photography Incredible images show London's skyline from its highest points
Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tv 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there