First the Florestans. Now the Leopolds. Lady Bracknell would surely have had something incisive to say about the demise last year of Britain's leading piano trio and, now, of our premier practitioners of the less extensive string trio repertoire, too. Let us hope the retirement from the public platform of two such esteemed groups is just an unfortunate coincidence, and not evidence of a deeper problem of chamber ensemble viability in the current economic climate.
But at least the Leopold Trio said farewell in infectiously good musical spirit at this final Wigmore Hall appearance (Tippett's triple concerto with the BBC symphony orchestra in October will be their positively last appearance together). The programme combined one of the unquestioned pinnacles of the string trio repertoire with one of its most tantalising fragments; then, joined by Steven Osborne, the group gave a sweepingly persuasive account of the later and darker of Fauré's two piano quartets. The only disappointment, given how much was written for string trio in the 20th century by composers from Schoenberg to Stockhausen, was the absence of anything more modern.
Schubert's sole surviving completed movement for string trio, the Allegro in B flat, nevertheless provided a benign, rippling opener, full of characteristically obsessive figurations from the viola and dying falls from the cello. But Schubert's might-have-been was written in the shadow of Mozart's six movement Divertimento in E flat, K563, the locus classicus of the string trio repertoire and the work with which, inevitably, the Leopolds bowed out.
The trio have doubtless played the Mozart Divertimento dozens of times over the years, but Isabelle van Keulen's violin and Kate Gould's impeccably stylish cello seemed to delight in this by turns affable and experimental work as though encountering it for the first time. With Lawrence Power's eloquent viola providing a constant reminder that this was Mozart's own instrument, there could be no better sign-off after 21 highly distinguished years.
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