Friends of Chamber Music

Beaux Arts Trio

Schubert Adagio in E-flat, D897 Shostakovich Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor, Op. 67 Beethoven Piano Trio in B flat, Op. 97 ("Archduke")

Menahem Pressler, piano | Daniel Hope, violin | Antonio Meneses, cello

10 April 2007 @ 20.00 Vancouver Playhouse

Reviewer J H Stape

Proper to the event, a festive spirit dominated the final concert of the Friends of Chamber Music's 59th season as that veteran miracle worker, The Beaux Trio, offered their magisterial skills to a house packed to the near bursting point. Sponsored by the Friends' President, Linda Lando, the concert was a joyous birthday offering honouring Eric Wilson, Board Member for forty-six of the Friends' fifty-nine years. Generosity was, indeed, the evening's keynote, a magnificent performance of the main programme works being followed not by one but by two encores: the last movement of Johann Nepomuk Hummel's Piano Trio in D major, Op. 60, and the transcendental Adagio from Beethoven's Piano Trio, Op. 11.

Simple yet sublime, Schubert's Adagio in E-flat (circa 1826) was a perfect opening to a perfect evening. The work features a graceful and elegant opening statement of intense and haunting beauty that never lets up. Richly Romantic, characterized by shimmering colours, the Adagio received a stately and authoritative reading by The Beaux Arts whose delicacy of touch and depth of interpretation have made the group legendary.

This meticulous approach, never merely stylish, likewise coloured the performance of the Shostakovich Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor (1944). Elegiac in its opening, the technically demanding trio, moves into the boisterous and ironic with dance-like gestures that close the opening Andante. The shift of mood in the Allegro is pronounced in a frantic, madcap dance, and the Largo, in another dramatic shift, takes the powerful statement into brooding and sad territory, with the violin singing in an inner world. The closing Allegretto-Adagio, with its scherzo character flirts with frenzy and develops colours, though it becomes angry and even savage to the unbearable point before closing quietly and poignantly.

Beethoven's Piano Trio in B flat, Op. 97, the well-known "Archduke" (1811) is achingly elegant throughout, stately and joyful in its opening movement while moving towards a calm beauty in its Allegro close. The Scherzo (likewise marked Allegro) is gamey and teasing with unexpected bursts of vivacity that border on the mischievous, in contrast to the Andante cantabile that emphasizes solemnity and an easy wistfulness. The non-stop impulse dominates the final movement, where signally appealing harmonies prevail and a gently skipping mood builds towards a bright climax. The exquisite rendering of this piece by the Beaux Arts begs out for that overworked word "definitive."

An annual event, the Beaux Arts returns for the last time next season -- its 47th appearance for the Friends of Chamber Music -- as this incomparable group goes on to other ventures. Celebrating its own sixtieth anniversary, The Friends of Chamber Music offer a special event in June, with the Borodin String Quartet offering the complete cycle of Shostakovich quartets on four evening and one afternoon concert.

© 2007 J H Stape