World-class Beaux Arts Trio rocks Coronado Theatre

The Beaux Arts Trio took Rockford by storm, and had the crowd at the Coronado cheering so raucously that only a “casual” encore (not the usual occurrence at a chamber concert)—a little something by Shostakovich, recalling the battles and bombardments of World War II—would satisfy the exuberant fans.

Thursday, Oct. 9, the Mendelssohn Club gave Rockford this incredible ensemble—Menahem Pressler on piano, Daniel Hope on violin and Antonio Meneses on cello—as this year’s memorial to the late Irene Glasford.

Pressler has a long and distinguished career at the keyboard, starting as a soloist, but then nearly 50 years ago he founded the Beaux Arts Trio at The Tanglewood Festival in Massachusetts. Over the years, many string players have come and gone, but we have to sense that he remains the heart and soul of the group. He displays such musical sensitivity and intelligence that he has continued to attract musicians who share his love of the repertoire and the joy of bringing the composer’s intentions to life.

The first half of the concert was Rachmaninoff’s Opus 9, an elegy to express the composer’s remorse at the death of Tchaikovsky. The piano opened with a subdued mood-setting undertone to support the mournful lines that played back and forth in dialogue between the violin and the cello. At times, a single melodic line ran seamlessly from the cello over to the violin and back again; at other times, they played parallel octaves, or thirds—always exchanging glances to share their delight at another successful passage. And their delight came across to the audience, as they continued to show us all the varied ways their instruments could be played for countless special effects.

The second movement offered variations on a single theme, and the third movement, brief and fiery, called forth images of a hurricane; Pressler’s hands could be seen flying through the air as they hammered down for the composer’s signature chords, assuring us that the years have not noticeably diminished his strength and power, nor his ability to coax all ranges of expression from the keyboard.

The second half of the concert was the Schubert Trio in B-flat Major Opus 99—in which the composer takes deceptively simple melodies to weave complex tapestries of sound, so enchanting that for the moment it was possible to believe that the music was all that existed; the outside world and its torments vanished in the magic.

After coming out for bows several times, the group recognized that the audience was serious, and gave us the stunning Shostakovich—what an encore! But after that, we let them go to dinner, a well-earned treat (I’m told that the Clock Tower kept their dining room open past the usual time to accommodate the musicians—a touch of class!).

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