Monday, January 20, 2014

Pianist Menahem Pressler and The Beaux Arts Trio: An Appreciation; By Payman Akhlaghi (2014)

Pianist Menahem Pressler and
The Beaux Arts Trio: An Appreciation
By Payman Akhalghi (Draft 1)

(*) First published at on January 20th, 2014, under: Appreciation: Pianist Menahem Pressler and....

Last week, January 11, 2014, German-born Israeli-American Pianist Menahem Pressler played for the first time with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra [1], in a concert of Mozart and Shostakovich. He is 90 years young, and he continues to enjoy one of the longest and most prolific careers in classical music on record. Judging from the samples and an interview provided by the BPO, music aficionados may confidently expect a new period of sophisticated interpretations flowing from this living treasure.[2,3,4]

This took me back to ca. 1995, when I had the pleasure of hearing Mr. Pressler live at Caltech, Passadena, on tour as the most senior member of his prized Beaux Arts Trio, in a concert that included, as I recall, works from Beethoven's Op.1 set and the Op. 97 known as the "Archduke Trio". The astonishing sense of intimacy, the immediate rapport between the players, and the sheer musicality of each performer and the ensemble, was a reminder of the unique place that chamber music holds in the classical repertoire and the concert culture, and what it had been meant to be in the first place. The music felt ageless, as Ms. Ida Kavafian, violin, Mr. Peter Wiley, cello, themselves highly accomplished musicians, absorbed and amplified the inspiration that was clearly coming from the smiling man at the piano. This was a music relevant to an audience two-centuries later on a sunny Sunday afternoon, thousands of miles away, across an ocean, and another continent.

The many achievements of Beaux Arts Trio have been noted elsewhere.[5] I for one have enjoyed for many years its recording of two wonderful Trios by Zemlinski, and a 14-year old Korngold, which you wouldn't have come across on a regular day even in history books. The ensemble retired officially in 2008, after 53 years of recordings and performances, a rare accomplishment for any institution of its type. That same year, a book was released about the pianist's life, career, and approach to music.[6]

Mr. Pressler (b. 1923) left Germany for Palestine, at the age of 16, alongside his family to escape Nazi persecution. He would later land in America as an award-winning concert pianist, ensemble player, and educator.[7] To me, that adds naturally another layer to his playing today with the BPO.

I conclude this Memo by a wish and an appeal for increased appreciation and support for chamber classical musicians across the United States, as they keep alive of one of most enriching and yet fragile forms of art ever produced by humankind.

© 2014, Payman Akhlaghi. All rights reserved.

(*) Footnotes:

[1] BPO on Facebook.
[2] BPO on the 2014 Concert.
[3] Excerpt from Mozart Concerto No. 17, from the Concert.
[4] Interview with Mr. Pressler, German with Subtitles.
[5] Beaux Arts Trio on Wikipedia. Includes links to Ms. Kavafian and Mr. Wiley, once members of the Trio.
[6] Menahem Pressler: Artistry in Piano Teaching, Brown, W.; 2008, Indian University Press.
[7] Pressler on Wikipedia.

© 2014, Payman Akhlaghi. All rights reserved.

(*) Photo: From 2012, Hamburger Abendblatt, via Google Search:

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