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14.10.06

Still Going Strong: The Beaux Arts Trio at the Library of Congress

The PenguinPressler(Speech!)
No matter their exact formation, the Beaux Arts Trio around the lovingly familiar face of Menahem Pressler is among the most cherished, most welcome musical guests in this town – not the least because of their long association with the Library of Congress as their Trio-in-Residence. Last Wednesday the trio with Daniel Hope (violin) and Antonio Meneses (cello) around Mr. Pressler (who looks like a friendly, happy version of “The Penguin” in his tails) played the first classical concert of a very promising and star-studded season at the Library of Congress.

That Daniel Hope (who recorded on the now defunct Warner Classics label) is much more than just a patch to keep the Beaux Arts Trio going was experienced first hand at the National Gallery of Art last season where even the acoustic of the West Garden Court could not dampen a great impression. Hope, a marvelous chamber player, proves to be a great asset to the Beaux Arts Trio; beautifully put to work in Schubert’s indescribably exquisite Notturno, D. 897, a lone standing movement for piano trio that may just be his finest chamber composition. The delicacy of the performance could hardly have been bettered.

available at Amazon
DSCH Trios / Beaux Arts (w/Hope, Meneses)


available at Amazon
Schubert Trios / Beaux Arts


available at Amazon
Hope / DSCH Violin Concertos


available at Amazon
Hope / Bach Concertos
The purposefully perilous, long, extremely high opening on the cello’s A string of Shostkaovich’s Second Piano Trio is meant to keep the player and listener on the edge of their seat. For better or worse, I’ve not heard it played live with such assurance and precision as Mr. Meneses did. It was, at any rate, the beginning of a grimly beautiful and stormy anniversary gift to the Russian composer.

Menahem Pressler’s 82 years were unnoticeable for all the vigorous playing that emerged behind the equally engaged strings. After inner torment and then overt expression of devastation in this trio, the last movement’s airiness (especially well played by the violin) and the soft, concluding piano chords consoled as only the serenity of resignation can.

Mark-Anthony Turnage (*1960) had his A Slow Pavane (2004/2005) commissioned for the Beaux Arts’ 50th anniversary by the Concergebouw – where it was premiered last year. Turnage is one of the few modern composers who manages to write music that makes few or no concessions to the neo-romantic wave of contemporary composers and manages to aim for the listener’s heart (not just the head), all the same. Gentle, longing, and yet puckish; charming and charmingly short: it whets the appetite for the other two Turnage works for piano trio in what is a projected cycle of four.

Other Reviews:

Charles T. Downey, Beaux Arts Trio at Library of Congress (DCist, October 12)

Robert Battey, The Beaux Arts Trio (Washington Post, October 12)
With Schubert the concert began and with Schubert it ended. Trio no. 1 in B-flat major (D. 898) never fails to delight. Meneses stood out with his contribution and tiny oddities on the part of Hope did not deter one bit – just like occasionally dropped notes of Pressler’s had been rendered immaterial in the enthralling Shostakovich performance. Putting the pen aside and enjoying the music (what a gentle Andante!) was the only proper response to a rendition that may not have been flawless but was beyond criticism; full of musicality and genuine love for Schubert.

The next performance at the Library (check out their season calendar here) will be the “Montage Music Society” on Wednesday, October 18th, which should be marked in bold in everyone’s calendar for their program of Zemlinsky and (romantic) Schoenberg! All performances at the LoC take place in the Coolidge Auditorium at 8PM.

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