Thursday, 27 September 2007

Beaux Arts Goodbye

cyntillating sounds opus twelve

Menahem Pressler has been walking out into the spotlight of the world’s concert stages with an eagerness parallel to Hannibal’s on the far side of the Alps for over 65 years now. The eagerness is undiminished, his gait, as energetic as ever. We are the melancholy souls tonight, witnessing the near end of an unprecedented career as Pressler’s Beaux Arts Trio starts out on its farewell tour of Europe before a final goodbye concert in Tanglewood in August, 2008.

Most of Pressler’s appearances have indeed been accompanied by his dedicated and loving trio colleagues, none more loving than cellist Antonio Meneses and violinist Daniel Hope are this evening in Amsterdam. A sold out house, one particularly fond of the Beaux Arts Trio, is expectant, charged.

But tonight’s performance is even more than the die hard fans have come to expect in the trio’s 50 odd years of tours. Dvorak’s Dumky trio is more human, more earthy, Schubert’s ethereal masterpiece in B flat (D898) more deep and spiritual than ever before. Much credit is due to Hope in both pieces: his relaxed, folkey interpretation of the Dumky makes the incredible beauty of his tone in the Schubert all the more impressive by comparison. What a master of colour. The grand gestures in both pieces arise from Antonio Meneses’s massive warmth and lyricism. His cello sings, kletzmer style in the Dvorak, hymn-like in the Schubert.

And then there’s Pressler. He will go down in history as the softest pianist ever, an ambition and reputation he has bemusedly referred to in interviews. But the pianissimo’s that only he can realize are just one aspect of a touch and tone that is so telling, so inherently musical. And his trills: pure pearls.

Have I forgotten a superlative here? Good, because I still need them for the two spectacular encores: Shostakovich’s spitting Scherzo (second movement, opus 67) and Beethoven’s elegant yet melancholy Adagio (opus 11). And yes, this elegant Amsterdam crowd was certainly melancholy as this marvellous concert came to an end.

It will be near impossible to say goodbye to this beloved ensemble when they return for their final Concertgebouw concert November 21. Sold out already, we can only hope that someone will have the insight to record what undoubtedly will be an important piece of performance history. And we can only hope that Menahem Pressler, a man who does not know the meaning of a day off, vacations, sabbatical or retirement, will return here to play forever.

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