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Fire Starters

Will sparks fly between Beaux Arts Trio's pianist Menahem Pressler and violinist Daniel Hope at UCSC this weekend?

By Scott MacClelland

In violinist Daniel Hope, the acclaimed Beaux Arts Trio has a tiger by the tail. As the youngest-ever member of Menahem Pressler's legendary ensemble--now celebrating its 50th anniversary--Hope's career to date has exploded on the international scene. In concerts this Friday in Carmel and Saturday at UC Santa Cruz, look for sparks to fly between venerable founding pianist Pressler and the youthful firebrand Hope.

Daniel Hope kicked off 2005 with two nominations for the 47th Grammy Awards: Best Instrumental Soloist Performance with Orchestra for his recording of the Berg and Britten concertos, and Best Classical Crossover for his recording of East Meets West. To celebrate its first half-century, Beaux Arts has just recorded Dvorak's "Dumky" Trio and the Mendelssohn D Minor, replicating its very first LP by Pressler and fellow BAT founders, Daniel Guilet and Bernard Greenhouse.

This weekend Hope, Pressler and cellist Antonio Meneses (who joined the trio in the late 1990s) will serve up Beethoven's mischievous Variations on "Ich bin der Schneider Kakadu," Shostakovich's harrowing Trio in E Minor and one of those heart-rending late masterpieces by Schubert, the Trio in B-flat.

To read Hope's press, you might get the impression that his Beaux Arts connection was an afterthought. Blame it on the press--and maybe him for encouraging them at his website. It seems he has bigger fish to fry. But Pressler is no fool, and his choice is certainly no hope against Hope. Still, with the increasing demands on Hope's ascending stature, one must wonder how long he's likely to remain with the BAT. (The last time the trio appeared in Carmel its violinist was Young Uck Kim.)

My own history with Hope goes back six years when I acquired the flaming redhead's 1999 Nimbus CD with the English Symphony of works by Schnittke, Weill and Takemitsu. A year later he released his second, a brash program of Shostakovich, Penderecki, Part and Schnittke, brilliantly played. Subsequently came Forbidden Music, celebrating works written at the Terezin prison camp by composers who were later murdered by their Nazi captors. And just released on Warner Classics, a Mozart program featuring Philip Wilby's edition of a virtually unknown concerto for violin and piano.

While the string quartet may be seen as a symphony in chamber music drag, the piano trio is more like a concerto. In an interview prior to their appearance last week at Sunset Center, the Guarneri Quartet's principal violinist, Arnold Steinhardt, described the piano trio repertoire in comparison to that of the string quartet. "The instruments are somewhat more soloistic, and play out in a more unrestrained way," he said, adding, with a twinkle, "Trios are a release from bondage." (A bit incestuously perhaps, cellist Peter Wiley performed with the BAT for many years before joining the Guarneri and being replaced by Meneses.)

The piano trio's emphasis on individuality spotlights the players, each in turn. Pressler has often been described as "impudent" and "irrepressible." Certainly, those same words apply to Hope. I'll be focusing as much on Meneses. Are these men a trio of equals, or not?

UCSC Arts & Lectures presents the Beaux Arts Trio as part of the ensemble's 50th Anniversary led by founder Menahem Pressler on Saturday, April 9 at 8:00 pm at the UC Santa Cruz Music Center Recital Hall. Tickets are available at the UCSC Ticket Office. Call 831.459.2159

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Web extra to the April 6-13, 2005 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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