The Trio de la Fundacion San Telmo, Friday night's program notes informed us, "was established in 1983 and has performed throughout Buenos Aires . . . "
The statement evoked a smile, especially since this ensemble from Argentina was performing at the Library of Congress' Coolidge Auditorium, home base of the greatest piano trio in the world -- the Beaux Arts.
However, the program was varied and promising: a classical work (Haydn), a romantic (Schumann), a modern (Shostakovich) and an Even More Modern (one Marta Lambertini).
The Haydn was a disappointment, played at an unvarying mezzo-forte, without inflection or humor.
Its famous "Hungarian Rondo" finale came out sounding like Liszt in a frenzy.
But all doubts fled with the Shostakovich E minor trio.
Written during the darkest days of the Second World War, this gripping work does not require much subtlety of the players, but it demands high technical skill, and the San Telmo trio has technique to burn.
The scherzo emerged as a terrifying journey into schizophrenia; the largo was an almost Hebraic lament; the finale a macho but ultimately joyless Cossack dance.
After this the Lambertini, a bit of programmatic chic that purports to take its inspiration from "Moby Dick," was weak tea indeed. The best came last -- Schumann's Trio in F, a work full of flaws but full of wonderful things as well.
The Argentinians minimized the flaws and seized on the essential Schumann: warm-blooded, gallant, tender, quirky.
A treasurable reading, quite up to Beaux Arts standards.