The music had four distinct flavors, last night in the Terrace Theater, by the time the Beaux Arts Trio agreed to play an encore. The final flavor was that of a movement from Dvorak's "Dumky" Trio, adding a wild, Central-European folk dance zest to the evening's blend.
Before that, it had been Haydn, courtly and playful; Ravel, intense, tricky, hinting at more than he actually says, and Brahms--the great Piano Trio in C, Op. 87, full of sharp contrasts and passionate intensity. In Haydn's 18th Piano Trio in A, the piano dominated the music, though pianist Menahem Pressler was too much the chamber musician, too much the colleague of his string-playing partners ever to stress this point.
In the Brahms, occasionally, the violin and cello are fused by the composer into one giant, enormously resourceful stringed instrument, capable of meeting the piano on something like an equal footing. At these moments, violinist Isidore Cohen and cellist Bernard Greenhouse played with an awesome unanimity, their tones blending perfectly and their phrasing coordinated with a precision that could be measured in microseconds. Elsewhere in the Brahms and more so in Ravel's Trio in A minor, the Beaux Arts was made up of three distinct personalities, but their energies and styles were focused and balanced to produce a totally unified effect.
Although they have been playing essentially the same repertoire for more than a quarter-century, the whole program had a sense of freshness and excitement; familiarity has given them ease in the music's intricacies and has put a fine polish on the way they play together without for a moment dulling their spontaneity or enthusiasm.
The Terrace acoustics served them well, with perfect clarity in the smallest tonal nuances and excellent balance. The hall added no perceptible warmth of its own to the sound (as Carnegie Hall does, for example), but the trio provided all that was needed.