For its third visit to the Southland, the Berlin-based Jacques Thibaud String Trio brought along two colleagues and played two quintets. But the real joy of the performance in Schoenberg Hall at UCLA on Saturday night was its centerpiece, Jean Francaix's Trio (1933), which the ensemble played exquisitely and from memory (the trio usually plays its repertory from memory).
Utterly charming, engaging and lighthearted, the piece, written when the composer was merely 21 years old, reiterates the irrepressibility and urbanity of the era of its composition. It lives up to annotator Nicholas Gordon's description of music that "delights in the play of stylistic manners, taking irony as an artistic virtue in itself rather than a source of expressive conflict."
The surrounding program also gave pleasure, if not quite as much delight. With Brazilian pianist Caio Pagano and Japanese bassist Masatoshi Saito, the trio -- violinist Burkhard Maiss, violist Philip Douvier and cellist Uwe Hirth -- opened the evening with Johann Nepomuk Hummel's jolly Piano Quintet in E-flat. Hummel, a contemporary of Beethoven, wrote glibly, and his music always seems to contain too many notes, to use a famous phrase from the play "Amadeus."
This aggressive performance was accomplished but often overstated, particularly by the overachieving pianist.
Schubert's "Trout" Quintet, which the trio also played here with other colleagues last year, emerged with more subtlety than did the Hummel.