EIF 2023: Amatis Trio with Thomas Quasthoff, Queen’s Hall, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Amatis Trio
Suite from the Incidental Music to Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, Op. 11: II (Korngold); Three Little Pieces, Op 11: II & III (Webern); Piano Trio No. 2 in E flat, Op 100: II (Schubert); Abendlied, Op 85, No 12: arr. piano trio (Schumann); Notturno in E flat, Op. 148 (Schubert); Piano Trio No 2 in E Minor, Op 67: II (Shostakovitch); Three Old Viennese Dances: II (Kreisler); Phantasiestücke, Op 88: II (Schumann); Two Pieces, for Cello and Piano: I (Webern); Piano Trio (Rebecca Clarke); Letters and excerpts from diaries from the First World War
Amatis Trio: Lea Hausman (violin), Samuel Shepherd (cello), Mengjie Han (piano); Thomas Quasthoff (reader)
Running time

Centred around the theme of ‘Humanity in War’, this fascinating performance blended spoken word with the medium of music – bringing letters from the trenches to life once more.

This was a marvellous concept, and the diary extracts, read by Thomas Quasthoff, preceded each musical item. They were sometimes upsetting, often reminiscent – but with a consistently gritty quality: grounding the audience in the sheer and universal terror of war.

The following music was always exceptional – the Amatis Trio are simply phenomenal. Han was heart-and-soul invested in the piano accompaniment; and the visual dialogue, via facial expression, between the cellist and violinist was magnetic – there was a palpable synergy that drew the audience in. 

Quasthoff has enjoyed a highly successful career as a bass-baritone, and his sonorous voice was perfect for the recitation of the diary extracts. That said, there were a number of mispronunciations and various hesitations – there didn’t appear to be a great familiarity with the script. This was unfortunate for those who didn’t have a printed programme, and so seemingly got somewhat lost in following the narration.

Again, the printed programme was also essential for discerning the links between the passages read, and the music then chosen – which may have otherwise seemed rather random. There was certainly always a connection – but it may not have been to do with content, sometimes picking up instead on a particular emotion described or concept conveyed, which could have easily been missed in the spoken delivery. There was a bit of an imbalance in the structure – particularly in the earlier part of the recital, the preceding sections of spoken word often being longer than the music that followed.

The format did, however, keep the audience thoroughly engaged, and the care and research that was invested in this programme was nothing short of admirable. The overall way that the recital was conceived, was as impressive as the playing within it. The Amatis Trio were stunning. 

The performance finished at 12.50pm.

Amatis Trio with Thomas Quasthoff, Monday 14th August, 11.00am, Queen’s Hall