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Third String

New York
Metropolitan Museum
03/22/2002 -  
Robert Schumann: Trio # 1
Franz Schubert: Trio # 2

Beaux Arts Trio
Menahem Pressler (piano)
Daniel Hope (violin)
Antonio Meneses (cello)

Isadore Cohen was the violinist of the Beaux Arts Trio for so many years that most everyone assumes that he was a founding member. Actually, that honor went to Daniel Guilet, but no one remembers him anymore than they do the first baseman who took a day off so that Lou Gehrig could have a chance to play (his name was Wally Pipp). Although Cohen was not a particular favorite of mine (I always found his romanticism a bit overstated), he was intimately involved in the group’s establishment of an international reputation as a top-flight chamber ensemble. Upon his retirement, and after a brief interregnum, the final original member, Menahim Pressler, settled upon the dynamic Young-Uck Kim as his new partner and, in combination with equally youthful cellist Antonio Meneses, the trio was born again with a noticeable infusion of rejuvenated brightness of style and energy. Now, continuing the sports analogy, a major injury has sidelined Mr. Kim and forced his inclusion on the disabled list for, the press release states, “an undetermined length of time”. Bringing with him a change from the ”Archduke” to the Schubert Op. 100, a young British fiddler may be their Hope for the future. Although he may have obtained his seat upon the stage due to misfortune, many others acquired theirs only after an overwhelming response from prospective patrons produced a spillover of demand for entrance to the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium.

It was apparent from the first how much we all missed Mr. Kim. This Schumann trio (it’s the one where the cellist plays upon his bridge at one point) had considerable grace but little passion, the violin tone pale and wan, albeit pristine, the overall approach, so common when there is an initial change in personnel, tentative and gingerly. Mr. Pressler experienced an uncharacteristic off night, seemingly more concerned with directing his new charges with frequent head gestures than in concentrating on his own digital inaccuracies. One particular passage in the second movement, which is repeated many times, proved the victor over the pianist. The first phrase is to be played chordally and choppily, the second smoothly in brief arpeggio style. Each reprise was greeted by confusion, a fresh mistake all to which to look forward, until the frustration plainly showed on Mr. Pressler’s visage and, I’m quite sure, on mine as well.

The Schubert worked better technically, stylistically the civility of enunciation more in keeping with the last gasp of the Classicists than the preceding first blush of the Romantics. The delicate refinement of the third movement was quite lovely, the dual strings at the end of the andante blended with just the right timbral touch (reminiscent of the exquisite similar point in the Brahms ”Double” Concerto”). There were some harsh dismounts that stung the blue air in the last movement and reminded us that this was not an ensemble that had had much time together, but in general this was a satisfactory interpretation. In an odd way, the substitute violinist’s thin tone is a better match for the light touch of Mr. Meneses, but it was clear by his absence that the spice in the Beaux Arts stew is Young-Uck Kim with his superb and sensual sound. Get well soon.

Frederick L. Kirshnit



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