In rehearsal at the 'Vinterfestspill i Bergstaden' Festival 2011 (Røros, Norway)
Review of a Performance at Cockermouth Music Society - The Cumberland News:
If violinist Marianne Thorsen is part of a musical event, you can be sure it will be a winner, and so it proved to be for the recent concert promoted by Cockermouth Music Society. The trio features the commanding presence of this superlative violinist (also of Nash Ensemble) together with the gorgeous cello sound produced by Alasdair Strange and the twinkling fingers of pianist Viv McLean.
The opening music, Haydn's popular Gipsy Trio in G, sparkled with vitality and assured musicianship. This was followed by Fauré's Trio in D minor, written when the composer was nearly eighty, and yet portraying remarkable freshness and vivacity, to which the players did full justice. Mendelssohn's great Trio No 1 followed the interval. This piece requires a formidable pianist for its almost concerto-like demands and here Viv McLean positively revelled in the intricacies of the music, producing a remarkable display of great playing and at the same time being sensitive to the string players' moments of glory.
The piano trio is not an easy medium but these three musicians proved how wonderful it can be, and this was fully appreciated by an enthusiastic audience.
Review of a Performance at Penrith Music Society - Cumberland and Westmorland Herald:
The McLean-Thorsen-Strange gave a concert for Penrith Music Club. Viv Mclean was the pianist, Marianne Thorsen the violinist and Alasdair Strange the cellist. They chose widely contrasting pieces for their program which began with Beethoven's Trio in C minor, opus 1 number 3.
As a complete contrast, Fauré's Trio in D minor followed a work written towards the end of his long life. Even so, it is a fresh and living composition. It is, perhaps, not as well-known as the piano quartets, but it manages to solve the problem of balance by making the piano something of an accompanying instrument and the strings sometimes doubling when playing a melody. The cello solo in the slow movement was beautifully played. The last movement is complex, but the members of the trio were able to emphasise the various melodic strands, not an easy matter in such a dense score. This was a superb performance of a little known work.
After the interval came another exciting treat, Shostakovitch's second Piano Trio, a distinct contrast to the late romanticism of the Fauré. The first part of the first movement and the slow movement were a reaction to the sudden death of one of his close friends in 1941. The sense of loss is portrayed at the outset by haunting harmonics on cello and violin. After the sombre beginning the mood changes to one of greater cheerfulness, but the whole movement is pervaded by a feeling of tragedy. The third movement, entitled Lament, is based on a series of chorale-like chords, which, like the initial harmonics, reappear at the very end of the last movement. Some very inspiring string playing was heard in this passacaglia. The last movement is a frenzied, motivic dance based on Jewish themes, brilliantly conveyed by the trio, and which brought the concert to a resounding conclusion, rapturously applauded by an enthusiastic audience. It was an evening to remember.
Individual Player Reviews:
The pianist Viv McLean seemed exceptional to me; he astonished us with his musical maturity and extraordinary sonority.
Le Monde (Paris)
At the Festival de Melle, Viv McLean revealed extraordinary originality, superb simplicity, and fingers of steel hidden behind muscles of velvet. He is an otherworldly young man - he plays with the genius one finds in those who know how to forget themselves, naturally placing themselves at the right point to meet the music, this mystery of the moment.
Le Monde (Paris)
The pianist Viv McLean never faltered, spewing molten lava.
The Times (London)
The fluent technique and brilliance of the interpreter were impressive, he played with insight and the greatest sensitivity.
General Anzeiger (Bonn)
The listener was struck by the sustained level of technical mastery. Viv McLean performed with his mind as well as his hands.
This was masterly playing, impeccably phrased and articulated. Rarely has Mozart come dancing off the page so enticingly. Marianne Thorsen's deeply committed playing succeeds in making the music both expressively cogent and structurally compelling.
International Record Review
The glory of the evening was Marianne Thorsen's performance - technically first-rate and full of love for the music.
Thorsen played with confidence and utter musical assurance, with a singing rich tone, great power of projection,
meticulous accuracy of intonation and attack and with deeply felt expressivity. Sheer dynamism.
Alasdair Strange was the marvellous cellist.
Stephen Pettitt, The Times
The exacting half-tones of its difficult solo part (Ligeti Cello Concerto) was caught skilfully by Alasdair Strange.
Paul Driver, The Sunday Times
Alasdair Strange performed brilliantly - with sensitive empathy for the music and charming delicacy.
The solo of the night came from Alasdair Strange in the Cello Concerto No 2 by Penderecki. I suspect he will turn out to be one of contemporary music's survivors - especially if cellists carry on playing him with Strange's concentration and flair.
Scarpia, The Independent
Beethoven's bidding that 'music should set the human soul alight' was satisfied to perfection by Alasdair Strange. The British artist brilliantly rendered the imaginative and vivacious style of this Czech composer (Martinu).
Alasdair Strange offered a calm, unruffled integrity of delivery, ensuring that every component fell securely into place. But Strange took a dominant role in his exchanges with the orchestra.
Meirion Bowen, The Guardian
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