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Beaux Arts Trio's Singular Devotion to Collaboration

Thursday, December 16, 2004; Page C08

By design, the chamber music pianist is distanced from the other players by, well, the piano. The Beaux Arts Trio's Menahem Pressler finds a way to bridge that gap with intensive eye contact with his colleagues, violinist Daniel Hope and cellist Antonio Meneses. That constant communication certainly contributed to their stellar ensemble playing Tuesday night at the Library of Congress.

The Beaux Arts made the tightly woven intricacy of Dmitri Shostakovich's Trio No. 2 look easy, exhibiting a complete understanding of the music.

Pressler's liquid piano technique allowed the instrument to blend perfectly with the strings, and Meneses' velvety cello was particularly exquisite in the slow movement.

The trio gave Haydn's Trio in A a delightfully light touch, adding a jaunty spring to its step in the finale. Mark O'Connor's Fiddle Sonata showed off Hope's adroitness as a country fiddler, though both he and Pressler gave the "Hoedown" movement a tuxedo edge, not completely giving themselves over to the barn dance flavor.

Dvorak's "Dumky" Trio was the quintessential conversation among three players, highlighted by the group's careful attention to the blending of timbres. Seamlessly shifting character changes and contrasting moods, from bold to sentimental to playful, made the performance as dramatic as a miniature opera.

One of the most remarkable things about the Beaux Arts Trio is its longevity. Now in its 50th year, with 81-year-old Pressler as the sole original member, the trio forms a multi-generational congregation. If this performance is any indication, one can hardly wait for the next half-century.

-- Gail Wein

© 2004 The Washington Post Company