Robert Battey, Washington Post, February 2014

trio9The piano trio literature, distinctive among small genres, comes to us in two guises. Since the piano, violin and cello are the three most popular solo instruments, works for this combination invariably attract random groupings of big-name soloists who enjoy the camaraderie and lower-stress engagements.

But the literature is of sufficient size to sustain an entire career, like the string quartet, and so many full-time groups are out there as well. Thus, there’s an equal chance that the Brahms trio you hear on the radio today is being played by star soloists or by a group you’ve never heard of.

I’d never heard of the British-based Gould Piano Trio, which played Sunday at the Phillips Collection, although it has a fairly large discography. But this group demonstrated, phrase by phrase, what is missing when this music is played by soloists who rehearse a few times together. Pianist Benjamin Frith, violinist Lucy Gould and cellist Alice Neary have high-level professional credentials, including occasional solo engagements with orchestras. But what they produce, after playing for 20 years together, is simply extraordinary.

The only comparison that comes to mind is the old Beaux Arts Trio; the combination of jeweler-like precision and a musical fire that ignites from the first bar……………….

Though three musical personalities come through, the melding of the minds (and fingers) is on a plane one rarely hears today……….

Celebrity groups cannot equal the musical excitement generated by first-class players building up an interpretation through years of exacting study and performance, however memorable this or that solo passage may be. This was the most satisfying concert I’ve heard all season.

Battey is a freelance writer.