The Southbank Centre’s newly refurbished Queen Elizabeth Hall has been open almost two months, its spruced-up interior resonating throughout this season with echoes of its musical past. This concert was one of the most daring backward glances yet. The young British pianist Benjamin Grosvenor gathered an ensemble of friends for a programme including Schubert’s Trout Quintet: a nod towards a celebrated performance given at the QEH in 1969 by Daniel Barenboim, Jacqueline Du Pré and co, captured lovingly in a documentary film by Christopher Nupen.
Given the subsequent reputations of those involved in 1969 – Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman and Zubin Mehta completed the group – this was a bold gesture. But the ambition on show was predominantly musical, the expressive style worlds apart from the messy, mesmerising exuberance of Barenboim et al.
The programme’s opening blockbuster, Brahms’ Piano Quartet No 1, began in a restrained, almost classical vein, with energy only gradually bubbling up from Kian Soltani’s cello and Timothy Ridout’s viola to reach a fast but still neat finale. In Bartók’s Rhapsody No 1, the violinist Hyeyoon Park chose tone quality over abandon; Schubert’s Piano Trio in E flat was remarkable at times for its sense of stasis.
The Trout was another matter. This performance hung taut between Park’s tendency to hold back and the hell-for-leather dynamism of Ridout and Soltani, with Leon Bosch adding a calmer ground on double bass. The tension was thrilling, the scherzo springing into life as if its unmistakable upbeat had been released suddenly from a confined space. Crucial to the mix was Grosvenor, who moved seamlessly from foreground to background, his quicksilver fingers constantly communicating, a luminous tone and beautifully sculpted phrases – a true chamber musician.