Dorset County Museum Music Society
Aquinas Piano Trio Aquinas Piano Trio, Wednesday 19th January

There was a large audience at the County Museum last Wednesday to welcome the Aquinas Piano Trio; Ruth Rogers, violin, Katherine Jenkinson, cello, and Martin Cousin, piano. Although only recently formed, this very talented trio has quickly become one of the most sought-after ensembles in the country, and Dorset audiences in particular also know Ruth as the highly esteemed co-leader of the BSO.

They started with a beautifully shaped performance of Haydn's Trio No. 25 in G major, subtitled 'Gypsy Rondo' because of its exhilarating finale. John Ireland is not a composer often heard in concert halls, so it was very refreshing to hear his Phantasie in A minor, written in 1906 when he was twenty-seven. In this we heard some finely-judged exchanges between violin and cello, and violin and piano; this sweeping performance certainly lived up to the Phantasie of its title.

To end the first half, they performed Debussy's Trio in G. This is an early composition, written before Debussy established his own very distinctive musical language heard in pieces like La Mer. The performers gave a very polished and convincing account of this rarely heard work.

Camille Saint-Saens wrote his second piano trio in 1892, by which time he was internationally renowned as a concert pianist; so Martin Cousin was certainly kept fully occupied in this five movement piece. By now the performers were revelling in the hall's excellent acoustic, and we were treated to a virtuoso display of cascading piano arpeggios, lush string sounds, and, in the finale, precision accuracy in the fugal section.

In response to the very appreciative audience, they gave as an encore Piazzolla's dreamy, relaxing Oblivion. This was Ruth's last concert with the trio before taking time off to have her baby, due in about three weeks. We wish her well with that, and hope to see and hear her back with the trio in the near future!

(Russell Dawson, Dorset Echo, January 2011)

Emotion and talent combine for a seamless evening of classical music
Grimsby Concert Society presents Aquinas Piano Trio

The combination of three talented musicians and four popular composers ensured there were smiles on the faces of classical music-lovers at a recital by Grimsby Concert Society.

Aquinas Piano trio may be a relatively new chamber group, but cellist Katherine Jenkinson, violinist Ruth Rogers and pianist Martin Cousin have established a reputation for concerts overflowing with excitement. Katherine delivered an exhilarating performance during Haydn's Piano Trio No. 25 and, though this commenced at a stately pace, the Hungarian influences of the third movement allowed her to reach a climax imbued with pizzazz.  Meanwhile, Ireland's Phantasie in A minor offered an opportunity for Ruth to shine as she beautifully developed the melody, capturing both the melodic gift and the essence of romance. Debussy's lesser-known Trio in G revealed the sensitivity of Martin's playing, there are some delightful jaunty and hummable aspects in this composition and his interpretation did not fail to trigger those smiles.

The second half of the concert was devoted to Saint-Saens' Piano Trio No.2, which he described as an atrocity and envisaged would drive listeners to despair.  However, there was little prospect of that from Aquinas. The trio played as though possessing a single heartbeat, each seamlessly and effortlessly developing the full range of emotions woven within the composition. Indeed, during the second movement, such was the look of intensity on the faces of our string players it would not have surprised me to see tears trickling down their cheeks.  This was an evening of sublime music and it's impossible to ask for more than that.

(Trevor Ekins, Grimsby Telegraph, January 2011)

Concert for Churchill Music at St John the Baptist Church
Aquinas Piano Trio

Buy a season ticket! If the opening concert of Churchill Music!'s 2010-11 season is anything to go by, then for goodness sake buy a season ticket and do so now before the rest of the world realises just what a gem North Somerset is hiding in the shape of this tenacious little music charity, that pulls international standard concerts out of its magical musical hat as easily as you or I would make a cup of tea.

Opening its 2010-11 season last Saturday in their regular venue of St John the Baptist Church, were the Aquinas Piano Trio. Formed only in 2009 this dazzling young trio is rising fast and it was easy to see why.

So perfectly matched in their abilities and interpretation, the trio performed absolutely as one, creating ever shifting textures and colours in a perfectly balanced programme of Haydn and Dvorak, culminating with Beethoven's magnificent 'Archduke' trio.

 Setting an exuberantly cheerful tone, the Haydn A major trio, which obviously indulged the composer's playful side, was performed with the heart warming vivacity that is the signature of the Aquinas piano trio. In particular, the cheekiness of the last movement came shining through and I was joined by a number of the audience in failing to contain a quiet chuckle - something about which I think Haydn himself would have been delighted.

 Dvorak's 'Dumky' trio - a musical set of fleeting thoughts (each called a 'dumka', hence the plural, 'dumky' - had me hooked from the very first bars when cellist Katherine Jenkinson set to with the passion and intensity usually reserved for the arresting opening solo of the composer's cello concerto.

Joined in similar fashion by pianist Martin Cousin and violinist Ruth Rogers, this was gripping stuff. Yet, there was also a lightness of touch in the group's playing that allowed them to not only evoke each 'dumka' with exquisite subtlety of texture and colour, but also its fleetingness. It seemed almost magical.

 Filling the second half with its grandeur was Beethoven's 'Archduke' trio. This is a magnificent beast of a piece, not to be undertaken by the feint hearted and the Aquinas Trio were more than up to the challenge. With rarely a note out of place, their technical brilliance seems so natural allowing them to give themselves heart and soul to the music. It is this particular ability of the group that gives life-affirming freshness to almost every note they touch, and makes it seem that the music is fresh from the composers pen.

If the Aquinas Piano Trio don't go on to become one of the most admired of their generation I really will eat my hat.

(Alice Harper, The Weston Mercury, October 2010)

Coffee Concert at the Holywell Music Room
Aquinas Piano Trio

When considering what to give your friends and relatives for Christmas this year, why not consider the Aquinas Piano Trio's recording of Ravel's Piano trio in A minor and Saint-Saens' Piano Trio no.2 in E minor? The latter of these two works was on show by that very trio last Sunday at the Holywell Music Room.

The Aquinas Piano Trio started with the 'Gypsy Rondo' trio by Haydn, no. 25 in G major, so called because of the dashing Hungarian-style finale which induced visible smiles on many of the faces in the audience. In this trio the violin part was more elaborate than in many of Haydn's earlier trios (in particular in the arpeggiaic passages in the first movement), which were often referred to as sonatas for piano with violin and 'cello accompaniments. The Aquinas trio made the piece appear simple, with subtle changes in dynamics, and the singing melody in the violin part in the second movement was a highlight.

The aforementioned Saint-Saens sonata was highly emotionally charged, and the exceptionally technically difficult piano part was carried off with style by pianist Martin Cousin, whose huge hands flew elegantly over the keys. At the beginning of the third movement, the cello played a beautiful melody with piano accompaniment- the balance here was perfect, although in other parts of the performance more volume from the cello part would perhaps have been desirable, especially alongside the power of the violin and piano in some of the passages in the fifth (final) movement. Overall, the piece was full of emotion and intensity (this could be seen in the mystical fugue-like opening of the final movement), inducing a sharp intake of breath by the audience after the hectic ending.

However, the concert was not yet finished- the trio gave the audience a calm encore after the frantic endings of the previous two pieces, with the slow movement from Debussy's piano trio. 'I live in music like a fish in water', declared Saint-Saens, and the same could perhaps be said of the Aquinas Piano Trio- their fiery performance, full of feeling, was inspirational, and I will certainly be going out to buy their CD.

(Robin Thompson, November 2009)

Aquinas Piano Trio at the Sherwell Centre in Plymouth

Accomplished, artistic, assured - these three words alone would warrant the Aquinas Piano Trio its triple-A rating. In terms of formation, it's just a mere toddler, but its rapid success is easy to understand.  Ruth Rogers (violin), Katherine Jenkinson (cello) and Martin Cousin (piano), all first-rate artists in their own right, have not only played together before in a number of different chamber formats, but they come over as such good friends, which makes their performance as a single musical entity so utterly convincing.

Great dexterity and a perfect ensemble were the order of the day in Haydn's Gypsy Rondo Trio and Mendelssohn's C minor Trio, with Martin dismissing the piano's bristling technical difficulties with real panache.  But there were also moments of expressive tenderness, especially in Debussy's fledgling Trio, where Ruth and Katherine's gloriously rich sound made such a telling impact.

 It might have seemed odd to include a work written in 1997 in such an otherwise traditional programme, but Dorset-based Shaun Bracey's Desert Song fitted the bill admirably.  This highly evocative Dubai-inspired snapshot showed the hand of a skilled and practised composer in every respect, crafting such an eminently enjoyable and effective piece.

And had Martin Cousin not been suffering from a debilitating back problem (though not due to any bad-tempered camel ride), the trio would most definitely have given the large audience their well-deserved encore!

(Philip Buttall, October 2009)

Aquinas Piano Trio in Churchill

Churchill Music!'s latest 'find' is the Aquinas Piano Trio who performed a programme of Haydn, Debussy & Saint-Saens to a near-packed audience at St John the Baptist Church, Churchill on Saturday 9 May. Though recently formed, each member of the trio brings a wealth of experience, and it is evidently a match made in heaven. Ruth Rogers (violin) and Katherine Jenkinson (cello) played with relaxed and effortless musicality, supported by virtuosically meticulous piano playing from Martin Cousin. Listening to this trio performing as one, I couldn't help thinking of the great violin virtuoso Yehudi Menuhin whose technique was so relaxed that every last drop of his musical soul was shared with his audience via the music. It was almost as if the Aquinas Trio was performing with us, not for us.

The programme was carefully chosen and suited the group (and the audience) beautifully. Haydn's "Gypsy Rondo" trio was as gleefully spirited as its title suggests, with the final movement being such a delightful romp that one couldn't help but grin from ear to ear. Next came an early work by Debussy in which the myriad of experimental musical devices, which occupied the young composer, were sensitively dealt with by the Aquinas. After the interval we were treated to Saint-Saens' second piano trio - an exemplary canvas for the musician's art, showcasing everything from broad-brush romantic schmaltz to meticulous counterpoint, and from delicate graceful lines, to complex interplay between the instruments. Totally in command of the considerable technical demands of the piece, the Aquinas launched themselves into it with maximum musical commitment and the result was breathtaking.

Rarely does one come across a group so relaxed and (rightly) confident in their technical abilities that they are able to focus so completely on the soul of the music. The Aquinas Piano Trio is one such group who not only satify the musical longings of the scores they play, but bring themselves closer to their audience; an audience which is surely set to grow as these young prize-winning stars take the stage with vitality and exuberance, as a Trio.

Bravo Churchill Music! on a fabulous find.

(Alice Harper, May 2009)

Aquinas Piano Trio in Derby

 'The opening movement of Haydn's 'Gypsy Rondo' Trio was both lively and graceful. The players found a nice flowing tempo for the second movement, and attacked the rondo finale itself with tremendous gusto.

There was both vigour and delicacy in the first movement of the Ravel Trio, and needle-sharp precision in the scherzo, while the overall arc of the Passacaille third movement was nicely shaped.

 Saint-Saëns' Trio No 2 was a refreshingly enterprising choice for the final work. With its five-movement structure, including one in quintuple time, it's a fascinating blend of the traditional and the exploratory. The Aquinas Trio brought clarity to the first movement, found the elegance in the fourth movement's waltz rhythms, and dispatched the fugue at the heart of the finale with great agility.'

(Mike Wheeler, December 2008)