AX/KAVAKOS/MA TRIO | London, Barbican Centre

To open the 2018/19 classical music season, the Barbican chose the crème de la crème: Emanuel Ax, Leonidas Kavakos and Yo-Yo Ma, performing the three Brahms Piano Trios which they recently recorded together for Sony Classical (the album was released last year).

Ax and Ma have been long-time chamber music partners and have recorded Brahms chamber music together in the past. Kavakos is new to the equation (they first performed the Brahms Piano Trios together in 2015) and fits finely in this trio, bringing balance and dynamism with the crystalline sound of his instrument. This is where two generations of musicians meet —Kavakos after all is almost 20 years younger than Ax— which brings a very fresh version of chamber music works so often performed and recorded.

The trio started with Brahms’ Piano Trio no. 2 in C major, followed by Piano Trio no. 3 in C minor and finished with Piano Trio no. 1 in B major, probably the most dramatic and lyric of all three. Chamber music is always a more intimate format, where musicians are actually much more exposed, artistically and humanly. That is where the chemistry and complicity between musicians is the most noticeable, which was very much the case yesterday. In the Allegro of the Piano Trio no. 3, Kavakos and Ma beautifully exchanged a musical dialogue with the subtle and impeccable support from Ax. The vibrant harmony was particularly palpable in the Scherzo of the Piano Trio No. 1, reaching a climax in the final Allegro.

The three musicians were also quite communicative with the audience, bringing the intimacy to its maximum and reaching a real sense of musical sharing at the scale of the hall: quite impressive given that over 1500 people were present.

The concert ended in standing ovation – the audience may have already been easily convinced (the concert was sold out), and it probably was a safe start to the season for the Barbican, but the talent, the chemistry and the generosity towards the public were definitely plain to see. Check out the rest of the 2018-19 season here.

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