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Date: 30 November 2004 at 20.00 Venue: The Vancouver Playhouse

Reviewer: J. H. Stape


Jacques Thibaud String Trio with Anton Kuerti

Françaix String Trio in C major | Dvorák Piano Quartet in E-flat major | Brahms Piano Quartet in A major, Opus 26

Violin: Burkhard Maiss Viola: Philip Douvier Cello: Jing Zhao Piano: Anton Kuerti

Thibaud and Kuerti Once dubbed the "boy band" of chamber music, The Jacques Thibaud String Trio has undergone some changes. Cellist Jing Zhao adds a feminine note to the two remaining "boys," replacing Uwe Hirth-Schmidt.

Not strictly true now, the "boy band" characterization none the less captures the energy and youthful exuberance amply on display at this well-balanced, finely performed concert. For good measure Anton Kuerti, playing the sage as well as the piano, contributed a lifetime of musical experience. When pianist Jane Coop, fresh from her dazzling performances with the Vancouver Symphony, came on stage in the role of page-turner, it seemed that something special was promised. And it was, indeed, delivered.

The Françaix String Trio in C major, as it were a Raoul Dufy painting set to music, got impeccable treatment. The sprightly and light Allegretto -- as youthful as the musicians themselves --was an object lesson in fine string playing, the mood continuing into the sunny Scherzo. The Andante movement, a prolonged sigh, offered up a lush, characterful interpretation, and the bouncy, rustic Rondo morphed into an all out, even somewhat drunken, romp. Playing was tightly controlled, nicely balanced, and carefully nuanced, even when traps for raggedness abounded.





The Françaix, however, proved only a very large appetizer, and from the very first notes of the Dvorák Piano Quartet in E-flat major one immediately knew the main course was about to be served. Full of musical ideas richly developed, lyric in impulse, and dramatic in thrust, this piece received a rousing, thoroughly intelligent reading. The Lento movement, lyrical and lovely, was rendered with almost unbearable intensity.

The collaboration between Anton Kuerti and the strings was, as might be expected in so seasoned a musician, flawlessly sensitive. Kuerti played with his characteristic intelligence, powerfully shaping his contribution for maximum musical impact. His tone, as ever, was rich and subtle.

The intermission allowed both players and audience to catch their breath after the masterly performance of the Dvorák. The Brahms Piano Quartet in A major, Opus 26, was in some ways, then, an anti-climax, the music no less intensely played but just somewhat less interesting in itself, particularly the fiendishly demanding but not very jokey Scherzo. By contrast, the nocturne-like Adagio that preceded it tugged at the heart strings. The allegro finale was all over the place, punishing writing that demanded near constant shifts in mood. The players rose to the occasion effortlessly.

In a word, this was yet another in a long succession of fine musical evenings at The Playhouse. The Friends of Chamber Music have a touch as sure and elegant as a virtuoso's, bringing Vancouver, concert after concert, the very best in serious classical music.

© 2004 J. H. Stape