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Some great achievements have their beginnings in quite casual events, and so it was with the illustrious Beaux Arts Trio. Three musicians of varied ages and backgrounds came together in 1955, to give a few concerts and perhaps make one or two recordings; and half a century later the ensemble was still going although pianist Menahem Pressler was the only founder to remain for the full fifty-three years of its life.
Beethoven s piano trios are central to the repertoire, indeed the Ghost was the first chamber music that cellist Bernard Greenhouse ever played, when he was fourteen. The piece takes its nickname from its central Largo, which certainly has a ghostly sound, but the whole work is a masterpiece of concision: rather than include a scherzo, Beethoven gives both outer movements a scherzando feeling. This trio thrives on the swashbuckling brio and close attention to detail that were Beaux Arts trademarks.
The Archduke is so called because Beethoven dedicated it to his pupil the Archduke Rudolf. The name suits its air of grandeur and spaciousness, qualities which once again came naturally to the Beaux Arts Trio.
The piano trio is an interesting type of ensemble. Because the three instruments are so distinct from each other, the music can be performed according to two very different philosophies. The three artists can express their individuality and virtually go their separate ways, meeting up at crucial moments; or they can work on their interpretations until every phrase and every rhythmic tic is finely honed.
The great Beaux Arts Trio, which was based in America and flourished from 1955 to 2008, had the best of both these worlds. Because its members were all first-rate musicians in their own right, they each had plenty of individuality to offer. But they also concentrated minutely on the details of every score they played.
Mendelssohn s D minor and Dvo ák s Dumky a collection of six movements in the slow fast dumka form favoured by the Czech composer were among the first works the Beaux Arts studied. And by the time these recordings were set down, the interpretations had acquired an easy familiarity which, coupled with the group s carefully rehearsed rhythmic precision, made for an exhilarating mixture. Of such things is great musicianship made.
French music, like French wine, has a delicate bouquet that does not always travel well and rarely crosses the Atlantic intact. The American-based Beaux Arts Trio had an inbuilt advantage in that their founding violinist Daniel Guilet, though Russian-born, had been brought up and trained in France.
He taught the exotic subtleties of Ravel s Trio to his colleagues Menahem Pressler and Bernard Greenhouse; and the magic stayed even when he was replaced by Isidore Cohen. We ve given perhaps a thousand performances of the Ravel, Greenhouse told his son-in-law Nicholas Delbanco, and yet we have to keep the freshness of presentation. The one way to do that is through rehearsal searching for new ways to interpret the piece.
Chausson s Trio is a relatively early work by this painstaking craftsman, a pupil of Franck, who left us only a handful of masterpieces a promising string quartet was half finished when the composer was killed in a bicycle accident. The Trio s expansive form offers many opportunities for the tonal glow and beautiful phrasing that were two of the Beaux Arts secrets.
1. Piano Trio In D Major, Op.70 No.1 "Ghost": I. Allegro Vivace E Con Brio
2. Piano Trio In D Major, Op.70 No.1 "Ghost": II. Largo Assai Ed Espressivo
3. Piano Trio In D Major, Op.70 No.1 "Ghost": III. Presto
4. Piano Trio In B Flat, Op.97 "Archduke": I. Allegro Moderato
5. Piano Trio In B Flat, Op.97 "Archduke": II. Scherzo (Allegro)
6. Piano Trio In B Flat, Op.97 "Archduke": III. Andante Cantabile, Ma Pero Con Moto - Poco Piu Adagio
7. Piano Trio In B Flat, Op.97 "Archduke": IV. Allegro Moderato
8. Piano Trio In E, Op.90 "Dumky": 1. Lento Maestoso - Allegro Vivace, Quasi Doppio Movimento - Tempo...
9. Piano Trio In E, Op.90 "Dumky": 2. Poco Adagio - Vivace Non Troppo
10. Piano Trio In E, Op.90 "Dumky": 3. Andante - Vivace Non Troppo - Andante - Allegretto
11. Piano Trio In E, Op.90 "Dumky": 4. Andante Moderato (Quasi Tempo Di Marcia) - Allegretto Scherzando...
12. Piano Trio In E, Op.90 "Dumky": 5. Allegro
13. Piano Trio In E, Op.90 "Dumky": 6. Lento Maestoso - Vivace, Quasi Doppio Movimento - Lento -Vivace
14. Piano Trio In D, Op.49: 1. Molto Allegro De Agitato
15. Piano Trio In D, Op.49: 2. Andante Con Moto Tranquillo
16. Piano Trio In D, Op.49: 3. Scherzo (Leggiero E Vivace)
17. Piano Trio In D, Op.49: 4. Finale (Allegro Assai Appassionato)
18. Piano Trio In A: 1. Modere
19. Piano Trio In A: 2. Pantoum (Assez Vif)
20. Piano Trio In A: 3. Passacaille (Tres Large)
21. Piano Trio In A: 4. Final (Anime)
22. Piano Trio In G, Op.3: 1. Pas Trop Lent
23. Piano Trio In G, Op.3: 2. Vite
24. Piano Trio In G, Op.3: 3. Assez Lent
25. Piano Trio In G, Op.3: 4. Anime