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Youthful Busch Trio delights at Phillips Collection

The Busch Trio.
The Busch Trio. (Blake Ezra)

The Busch Trio, formed in London in 2012, is a group of considerable talent. In a Sunday afternoon recital presented by the Phillips Collection and the Belgian Embassy at the International Student House of Washington, D.C., this young piano trio demonstrated both technical chops and remarkable musical maturity.

In Schubert’s first piano trio, D. 898, these young musicians displayed admirable poise and patience in choosing tempos wisely, so that the first two movements unfolded gracefully. With a few exceptions, pianist Omri Epstein did not overpower his colleagues, leaving the string players to weave together their intertwined melodic lines in a mood of intimate calm. Cellist Ori Epstein, the brother of the pianist, made his strongest contributions in the triple braid of sound in the second movement.

Strongest of all was violinist Mathieu van Bellen, who produced a consistently silken tone with flawless intonation on his 1783 Guadagnini violin, the instrument that once belonged to the ensemble’s namesake, Adolf Busch. Although the musicians were able to sustain the blistering tempo of the Scherzo, the daunting speed, faster than the last movement, took some excitement away from the finale.

Similar youthful indiscretion went further awry in Dvorak’s third piano trio, op. 65. This tempestuous score probably has more fortissimo and sforzando markings than any other dynamic. In contrast to the Schubert, however, the overabundance of loud, undifferentiated sound was overbearing for the room and the strident attacks required of the strings predictably sent intonation askew.

The piece was not without its pleasures, especially in the enigmatic conclusion of the third movement, growing from a false ending that leads into a mysterious cadenza for the piano. Certainly the virtuosic achievement was thrilling, and the audience’s enthusiastic response elicited a Dvorak encore, the second movement of the “Dumky” trio.