Alasdair Beatson And Friends

Perth Concert Hall / BBC Radio 3

The perfect lunch is one that satisfies the midday hunger pangs without weighing you down for the remainder of the day. In that sense, this second programme in a week of lunchtime concerts broadcast live from Perth Concert Hall by BBC Radio 3, though more remarkably attended by a limited live audience, served its purpose perfectly.

It featured locally-born pianist Alasdair Beatson in partnership with violinist Maria Włoszczowska and Philip Higham of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and the sum total of its content – trios by Haydn, Helen Grime and Fauré – was one of edifying and fulfilling contentment. Crowning that, it had a casual, summery appeal that made up for the mixed weather we’ve currently been enduring.

Haydn’s late Piano Trio in D set the scene. Restrained and serious from the outset, Beatson and his string colleagues emphasised its delicate surprises, puffs of energy grounded within rich-grained tone and a comforting tempo. Beyond the pervading sadness of the short slow movement, its dotted motifs like gentle sniffles, the innocent tittle-tattle of the finale lifted the spirits only to disappear finally and unexpectedly into the distance.

What made this such a delight was the unpretentiousness of the ensemble playing, an emphasis on blend and integration without suppressing the option for each player at any given moment to make a worthy point. Such opportunities further presented themselves in Scots composer Helen Grimes’ Three Whistler Miniatures, written 10 years ago and inspired by three chalk and pastel portraits by Whistler.

They are, says the composer, impressions rather than musical portraits, immediately apparent in the opening piece, The Little Note in Yellow and Gold, where the ambient lustre established by blurred piano chords is injected by flashes of hot string colours. Together with the more agitated contours of Lapis Lazuli and increasingly exotic textures of The Violet Note, these are sharp and scintillating pieces, heard to full effect in this insightful performance.

Another late Piano Trio completed the programme, this time by Fauré, his Op 120, composed near the end of his life. And again, it was the generosity and warmth of the playing that allowed the essence of Fauré’s signature style to fully emerge: the endless and effortless melodic flow; the irrepressible sense of natural momentum; the intoxicating and imperceptible shifts in key; and the restful fluidity that, in the closing moments of the finale, rises to Olympian heights. 

Beatson and his SCO friends served it all to perfection.
Ken Walton

Available on BBC Sounds