TWO REVIEWS: Smetana Trio at Wigmore Hall

Smetana Trio – Wigmore Hall Sunday Morning Coffee Concert

11.30am, 29 th April 2018

Review by Philip Starnier

Smetana Trio, reinvigorated with new Violinist, Radim Kresta, perform a masterclass in

Czech Chamber Music.

Every time a musical ensemble steps out onto a stage there is an act of courage involved –
each performance is a new venture. For the Smetana Trio, the excitement of that venture
was enhanced at the Wigmore Hall’s Morning Coffee Concert today owing to the fact that
this was their first public performance in the UK in their new configuration, with violinist
Radim Kresta joining the powerhouse partnership of pianist Jitka Čechová and cellist Jan
Páleníček. All the more impressive, then, that the Trio succeeded in reinvoigorating the
souls of a Sunday-morning audience in a tired-out Capital, reeling from the mayhem of the
With the repertoire selected, the Trio were squarely on home territory – their performances
of both the Dvořák ‘Dumky‘ Trio and Smetana’s Trio in G Minor having previously won them
many accolades, including the prestigious BBC Music Magazine Chamber Award. I myself
have heard the Trio perform both pieces on numerous occasions with their previous
violinists – their performances of the Dumky with Jana Nováková-Vonášková count among
some of the most pleasurable moments I have spent on this earth. So, it was with some
anticipation that I came to listen to them perform with the new addition of Radim Kresta.
The intention of Jitka Čechová and Jan Páleníček to invite Kresta to join them actually
predated their collaboration with Jana Nováková-Vonášková; at the time, Kresta could not
be reached as he was engaged in his Czech National Service duties. Whether due to this fact
or the fact that he himself regularly performs with his own wife, Eva Krestová, as a part of
the Josef Suk Piano Quartet, Radim Kresta has been able to combine his strengths perfectly
with those of the Čechová/Páleníček duo. In any case, their performance today belied how
fresh their association actually is, from the very first exchanges of themes in the Dumky –
Kresta responding with searing beauty to the opening theme offered up by Čechová and
With its huge range of moods and tempi, Dvořák’s Dumky offers a perfect showcase for
musicians with the virtuosic abilities of the Smetana Trio, and all three demonstrated that
they are equally at home in moments of playful excitement or tense anticipation, as they
are in the moments of joyful tranquillity or soaring romanticism. And then, the G minor Trio
by Smetana allowed the threesome of exceptional musicians to take the audience into a
darker mood of more sustained intensity, further proving that they truly are an instrumental
vehicle suitable for all musical terrains. Arguably however, the greatest surprise of the
concert was left until the encore, with the 3 rd movement of Roman Haas’ ‘Multicultural
Suite,’ providing the ideal, Czardas-like celebratory ending to the trio’s first outing together
on British soil.
I was certainly left feeling that, in Radim Kresta, the intimidatingly polished, joyously free-
flowing piano of Jitka Čechová and the warmly sonorous cello of Jan Páleníček have found

another ideal match. The Trio perform with effortless generosity and creative playfulness
that could not fail to melt the hearts of even the most exacting of metropolitan audiences
and left this reviewer for one hoping that the journey ahead of the new incarnation of the
Smetana Trio will be a long one that will lead them back to these shores on many more
occasions to come.

Philip Starnier MA(Oxon)

Wigmore Hall concert of the Smetana Trio, 29 th April 2018

Review by Leigton Jones

For their Wigmore Hall concert the Smetana Trio chose a programme of music close to
their hearts, and their hearts were clearly on their sleeves for this extraordinary Sunday
morning concert. The concert opened with Dvorak’s op. 90 trio, more commonly known
as Dumky. This highly unusual trio dispenses with the traditional classical forms in favour
of a more rhapsodic form. The piece has five movements, each with contrasting sections
of tempo. The Dumky is essentially a series of ballads and it was clear the members of
the trio had really empathy with Dvorak and his music.
From the very first notes the audience were in for a tremendous experience. The
performance had a real sense of spontaneity and the interplay between the players
demonstrated the clear empathy these musicians had for the music of their home land.
The individual characters of each section and movement had been carefully considered
and performed with a real empathy for this music. There were highs and lows from the
dance like sections to the depths of despair in others. The sound and energy from these
players radiated into the hall. The breathlessness of the audience at the end of the
piece was clear; they had experienced a highly emotional journey illustrating the
medley of Czech life, as seen by the composer.
To follow, the Smetana Trio chose another Czech work, central to their repertoire, that
of their namesake. The classical forms, contrasting with the Dvorak, were brought out
to the fore, but not loosing sight of the dance like elements. The highlight was certainly
the final movement, the players of the trio took chances with the music, building up
through perfectly judged crescendos, dropping the audience down before building them
up again in an increasing cycle of excitement. This allowed the members of the trio to
show off the passioned, but controlled tone from all three players; the vibrato from the
strings was passioned and the tone from the extremes of the piano was warm and rich,
which cut through the string sounds projecting clearly to the back of the hall with a
cantabile like quality. The rapturous and continued applause from the full house was
testament to the fantastic morning of music making on their virtual musical road trip
through the Czech countryside.

Leighton Jones