Standing ovations from a nearly full house at the Musical Arts Center greeted the Beaux Arts Trio Tuesday night. Menahem Pressler, pianist, Daniel Hope, violinist, and Antonio Meneses, cellist, bowed with pride after completing a commanding and exciting performance.\nThat's right, not one standing ovation, two.\nFollowing the performance of the Rachmaninoff Trio Elegiaque, Op. 9 and the Beethoven "Archduke" Trio, Op. 97, the audience gave a prolonged standing ovation, at which point the Beaux Arts Trio came back out on stage and encored the Scherzo movement of Dimitri Shostakovich's Piano Trio in E minor, Op. 67, which itself was followed by another standing ovation.\nAnd the ovations were well deserved.\nDuring the Rachmaninoff Trio, Beaux Arts demonstrated good ensemble, playing tightly together, with the tone between the string players matching nicely. The balance between the players was excellent. The piano, the foremost instrument in the work, never overpowered the strings. \nThe players decided to take a more introspective view of the work, versus a more emotionally extroverted approach. There was beautiful coloring in the 2nd movement variations, especially in the faster sections, where a light, whimsical nature peeked beautifully through the "all-encompassing sadness" (in Pressler's words) that typifies the piece. The pacing and dynamics in the score were also carefully adhered to.\nFor this listener's taste, I would have preferred a little more "Russian angst" and a lot more bravura, especially in the more concerto-like passages in the piano part, where the pianist can "steal the show" in places. In the more dramatic sections, I would have also desired a bit more warmth and depth of tone from the string players. Sometimes in the higher parts in the violin, the intonation was not quite on, and occasionally, but excusably, there were a few wrong notes in the piano, and sometimes a little too much pedal. But these are picky details, and should not detract from the fact that the performance of the Rachmaninoff Trio overall was quite strong.\nThe Beaux Arts Trio, however, I felt was really at home in its performance of the "Archduke" Trio of Beethoven, Op. 97. The performance of the 1st movement was strong, well-played and articulate. The trills and mordents in this movement demonstrated a real facility and exactitude of attention from the players. The 2nd movement Scherzo was also beautifully played, and there was a nice capture of the light feel, containing delightful colors and contrasts.\nBut the 3rd movement -- wow -- It was nearly tear-jerking. There was a hymn-like warmth and beauty that was truly breathtaking. You could hear a pin drop in the audience during this beautiful and subtle movement. I felt like I had been transported to a place where beauty and peace abounded freely. Every nuance of shading had been carefully thought out, and the performance of this movement reached the profoundest of musical levels. The players were perfectly together, and there was a beautiful passing off of the melodic material from the violin to the cello, and vice versa. The pianism underlying this movement was, in a word, elegant.\nThe ethereal and dreamlike quality of the 3rd movement ushered immediately into the final 4th movement, and you could hear a gasp of surprise from the audience at the sudden contrast and sharp dynamic change between these movements. \nAnd the group delivered a riveting and poised performance. \nThe clarity of playing, especially in the piano, and the clear tone of the strings created an interpretation that was classical and clean, and at the same time dramatically energized. One could not help but stand up at the end of such a convincing and solid interpretation of one of the great pieces in the chamber music literature.\nIn response to this first standing ovation, the ensemble reappeared on stage and performed the Scherzo of Shostakovich's 2nd Piano Trio, which this reviewer dabbled with in his younger days as a pianist. \n"Shostakovich is sometimes called the Beethoven of the 20th century," violinist Daniel Hope said.\nThe Shostakovich Trio, like Beethoven's, explores a huge range of emotions. This Trio in its Finale movement incorporates a Jewish theme, and the Trio as a whole is a commentary on injustices committed to the Jewish people, with the playful movement containing sorrowful and biting undertones.\n"Shostakovich's music speaks of the universal condition of man, the misery of each individual and his helplessness in the face of overwhelming odds. Undoubtedly, Shostakovich identified with the Jew as the victim of thousands of years of injustice, and now as the victim of Nazi and Stalinist persecution," said Elizabeth Wilson, in her biography on the life of Shostakovich.\nAnd indeed, the Beaux Arts Trio performance of the Scherzo movement contained a biting wit and sarcasm, appropriately capturing the mood and affect of the work. The edgy tone in the strings at times may have been excessive, but consequently the underlying angst was definitely conveyed.\nThe concert concluded with the second well-deserved standing ovation.
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