Monday, November 26, 2007

Beaux Arts Trio, Wigmore Hall, 19 November 2007

So, farewell, Menanem Pressler, farewell Beaux Arts Trio, you gave the musical world supreme enjoyment with. your performances of a thoroughly satisfying repertoire. You gave your first concert in 1953, fifty four years ago. Violinists and cellists have come and gone,'the Beaux Arts Superior String Players Employment Agency', but you. Menahem, were the one and only pianist. You listened to your colleagues, sure. but they listened to you and your views, your style, your musicianship affected them, rubbed off you. turned them into Beaux Artists. You were the little guy in the line-up, your face like a boy, babyish and innocent, constantly turning towards your colleagues, your mouth almost like an amorous goldfish as you encouraged them to make music, to serve the composer, to play your heart out and to play every grupetto, every sforzando chord, every note and every phrase as if'your life depended on it. The piano trio is tricky to balance but you excelled in just that. You accompanied the string players, you blended perfectly with them and you only overwhelmed them when the composer wanted you too - in, say, the finale of the Ravel Trio, when you, positively deluged their trills with your ecstatic fortissimo chords.

Every phrase you placed,, seemed just what the composer asked for, you could be as soft and delicate as gossamer, you could thunder like Jove, but your playing of music that was neither loud nor soft, what might be called your 'bread-and-butter' playing, that was so meaningful and so beautiful. 'Rarely,rarely comest thou', oh pianist of perfection like the wizard who was born in Magdeburg in 1925, studied in Israel and then in America with Egon Petri, winning a Debussy Prize in San Francisco at the age of seventeen. You were a formidable soloist (I remember your Dvorak Concerto in New York) but the B.A.Trio is what the musical world will remember for a long time, a memory fortunately perpetuated in your vast collection of recordings.

Your appreciation of various styles seemed limitless, your Haydn and Mozart as satisfying as your performances of anything,later, up to Ravel and Shostakovich. We critics are, alas, apt to carp if we get a chance and when we write we remember Blake's saying 'Damn braces,, bless relaxes', yes, we do a lot of bracing. But the B.A. have had all us hacks permanently in the 'bless' mode.

The farewell concerts in Londin's Wigmore Hall on November 18 and 19 were devoted to Schubert and Beethoven. I heard the latter when they played the Kakadu Variations and the Archduke, performances that showed the maturity we expect, but tempered with freshness and vitality. Daniel Hope, violin, and Antonio Meneses are as good, if not better, than some of the other players of the past.

The audience stood at the end to thank the musicians and to say goodbye. Pressler's fingers are as good as ever but in future he will mainly be teaching. The other two we shall, hear more of. Hope is springing if not eternally, then quite frequently in the U.K. these days.

Encores? yes, of course: rather curiously the slow movement of LvB's Clarinet Trio (parts redistributed) Opus 11 and then the squib second movement of Trio No. 2 by Shostakovich.

Goodbye, Beaux Arts Trio, and thank you.