CLASSICAL MUSIC: Frankl/Pauk/Kirshbaum; Wigmore Hall, London

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The Independent Culture
It was Fritz Kreisler who at the height of his career in 1910 remarked: "Ensemble playing is a luxury for which I now have very little time. And so I look forward to every summer, when Ysaye, Thibaud, Casals, Fogno and I meet in Paris. Ysaye and I alternate in playing the viola, but the queer thing about it is that we all want to play second violin."

The team of Peter Frankl, (piano), Gyorgy Pauk (violin) and Ralph Kirshbaum (cello) will not have had to fight over who played second fiddle but if the understanding of Kreisler's remark is that chamber music allows egos to be gracefully laid aside, 25 years of togetherness by Frankl, Pauk and Kirshbaum shows an astonishing welding of friendship and music-making. And a hall such as the Wigmore, where currently the trio are celebrating their anniversary, provides a perfect setting. The lucky (and large) audiences turning out for these concerts can really have felt they were eavesdropping on an evening's chamber music rather than attending anything more formal. Just as chamber music should be.

The three concerts are a model of musically intelligent planning. It is the trio's 25th anniversary and a jaunt through the great piano trios - from Haydn to today - might have been expected or, indeed, the cashing in on the composer anniversary train (after all, Schubert and Mendelssohn wrote some of the greatest trios). But no. The Frankl/ Pauk/ Kirshbaum trio have an eye (and an ear) not only to the next 25 years of trio playing but how the present relates to the past. Each concert has resourcefully contained a contemporary work - in last Tuesday's concert, a violin sonata by the Hungarian composer Ivan Erod and, in last Saturday's, one of the century's most important works for cello, the immensely demanding sonata by Elliott Carter. (On Wednesday, a newly commissioned trio from James MacMillan will be heard).

But what has made the first two concerts so unusual has been the placing of Brahms (in triumphant anniversary mode) at the beginning of each programme - his three trios (Op 8, 87 and 101) - and Beethoven's three late trios (Op 70 nos 1 & 2, Op 97) at the end, which has provided the frame for these concerts. Even against works from this century, it's the newness of Brahms that continues to amaze. Nothing that Erod could dream up could compete with the astonishing originality of Brahms' nervy Op 87 Scherzo and as for Elliott Carter's famed metric modulation, Brahms was at it at least 50 years earlier.

The Frankl/ Paul/ Kirshbaum trio has no snappy title because their names say it all. The match of tone between Pauk and Kirshbaum is extraordinary - in the same register it's not always easy to distinguish between the two. And Frankl, on full stick, never drowned or threatened to drown. This is a trio whose strength lies in understatement. A more moving and elegant performance of Beethoven's "Archduke" trio, such well-tempered grandeur, would be hard to find. Kreisler was right, luxury indeed.

The final concert in the series is Wed, 7.30pm (0171-935 2141)

Annette Morreau