Today the Beaux Arts Trio is one of the most famous, and most admired, classical ensembles in the world-pianist Menahem Pressler, violinist Daniel Hope, and cellist Antonio Meneses. In 1955, when the Beaux Arts made its debut appearance in the Library's Coolidge Auditorium, it was a brand-new group that would set what's been called "the gold standard" for piano trios over the next two generations. For many years a resident ensemble at the Library-and featured in many, many radio broadcasts here over the past half-century-the Beaux Arts is currently making its farewell tour.
The Shostakovich Trio no. 2 in E Minor, Op. 67 is a signature work for the group, which is admired for its dramatically expressive interpretations, superb technical command, and impressive palette of instrumental timbres, particularly from the piano. These artistic weapons are deployed to full advantage in this performance, realizing a work written in 1944 as a memorial to Shostakovich's friend Ivan Sollertinsky, who died in a Nazi concentration camp.
Paired with the Shostakovich Trio, we have Aaron Copland's Sonata for Violin and Piano, finished in Hollywood in 1942, during Copland's work on his score for the film The North Star. The sonata was dedicated to the memory of a friend who died in the war, Lieutenant Harry H. Dunham. Aaron Copland's compositions, including this sonata, are part of a very large special collection in the Library's Music Division. You can view many elements of the Copland Collection online, via the Music Division's The Library of Congress Presents: Music, Theater, and Dance site. Included are many items from Copland's personal correspondence, including letters to Leonard Bernstein, written during the year he finished this sonata.
Explore What's Behind the Music
Beaux Arts Trio: The Library of Congress has a long perspective on this most distinguished ensemble, considered "the gold standard of piano trios"-the Beaux Arts has been performing at the Library of Congress for more than half a century.Read More
Elmar Oliveira: Elmar Oliveira is one of the few major artists committed to the entire spectrum of the violin world - constantly expanding traditional repertoire boundaries as a champion of contemporary music and rarely-heard works of the past, devoting energy to the development of the young artists of tomorrow, and enthusiastically supporting the art of modern violin and bow makers.Read More
Beaux Arts Trio
The Beaux Arts Trio celebrated its 50th Anniversary Season in 2004-2005. Since its public debut on July 13, 1955, at the Berkshire Music Festival, known today as the Tanglewood Music Festival, the trio has maintained its freshness and vitality, while preserving its distinctive musical heritage through several incarnations. Founded by Menahem Pressler, Daniel Guilet and Bernard Greenhouse, the trio has evolved from the replacement of Guilet in 1969 with violinist Isidore Cohen, and later Ida Kavafian and Young Uck Kim, and the replacement of Greenhouse with cellist Peter Wiley in 1987.
Chosen as Musical America’s Ensemble of the Year in 1997, the trio was awarded the 2006 Concertgebouw Prize. Through the years it has played a major and ongoing role in the programs of important cultural and educational centers throughout North America. The trio’s annual international engagements include appearances at the festivals of Edinburgh, Lucerne, Vienna, Helsinki, Warsaw, Hong Kong and Israel, as well as performances in the chamber music series of the world’s major foreign cities including New York, Boston, Chicago, Washington D.C., London, Paris, Berlin, Munich, Vienna, Amsterdam, Moscow, Tel Aviv, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Sydney.
The Beaux Arts Trio’s many landmark projects include its participation in the “December Evenings” Festival in Moscow and a performance at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. Several contemporary composers have written pieces for the trio, including "A Slow Pavane" by Mark-Anthony Turnage commissioned by the Concertgebouw in honor of the trio’s 50th anniversary. The extensive Beaux Arts Trio extensive discography encompasses the entire piano trio literature,earning several coveted awards, including the Prix Mondial du Disque, three Grand Prix du Disques, the Union de la Presse Musicale Belge Caecilia Award and the Gramophone Record of the Year, the Stereo Review Record of the Year Award and a Grammy nomination.
Elmar Oliveira is one of the most commanding violinists of our time, with his unsurpassed combination of impeccable artistry and old-world elegance. Among his generation’s most honored artists, Elmar Oliveira remains the first and only American violinist to win the Gold Medal at Moscow’s Tchaikovsky International Competition. He is also the first violinist to receive the coveted Avery Fisher Prize, in addition to capturing First Prizes at the Naumburg international Competition and the G.B. Dealey Competition. His yearly schedule recitals with many of the world’s greatest orchestras, including the Zurich Tonhalle, Cleveland, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston and Chicago orchestras; and the New York, Helsinki, Los Angeles and London Philharmonic orchestras. He has premiered works by such distinguished composers as Krysztof Penderecki, Morton Gould, Ezra Laderman, Charles Wuorinen, Joan Tower, Aaron Kernis, Andrzej Panufnik and Benjamin Lees, and performed seldom-heard concerti by Alberto Ginastera, Einoujuhani Rautavaara, Joseph Achron, Joseph Joachim and many others.
A prodigious recording artist, Oliveira has recorded for Artek, Angel, SONY Masterworks, Vox, Delos, IMP, Naxos, Ondine and Melodiya, winning Gramophone magazine's “Editor’s Choice” and other awards. Of great historical significance are two unique projects: a CD released by Bein & Fushi of Chicago, featuring Oliveira performing on some of the world’s greatest violins (15 Stradivari and 15 Guarneri del Gesu violins), and a recording of short pieces highlighting the rare violins from the collection of the Library of Congress.
His honors and awards include an honorary doctorate from Binghamton University and the Order of Santiago, Portugal’s highest civilian honor. Oliveira performs on an instrument known as the “Stretton”, made ca. 1729-30 by Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu, and on several other violins by outstanding contemporary makers.
Notes on the program
Shostakovich Trio Op. 67
Adapted from notes provided by Columbia Artists Management and Ileen Zovluck
Shostakovich was the first major Russian composer to receive his entire musical education under the Soviet regime. He first achieved international recognition and governmental approval with his First Symphony. Written as a graduation piece, it was acclaimed at its premiere in May of 1926 in Leningrad, as well as in its first Western performance in May of 1927 in Berlin (conducted by Bruno Walter) and its American premiere in November of 1928 in Philadelphia (led by Leopold Stokowski).
Throughout his lifetime, however, Shostakovich went in and out of favor with the authorities, even if his loyalties were unquestioned. Even after his opera "Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk" had been internationally recognized as a masterpiece, in a 1936 editorial entitled "Chaos Instead of Music," Pravda denounced the score as "fidgety, screaming, neurotic," and as "coarse, primitive and vulgar." This assault-to which many fellow composers contributed-was meant as a warning against "modernism," "formalism" (or music which seemingly was comprehensible only to the composer's inner vision) and other perceived transgressions against "socialist realism." One year later he was declared "rehabilitated" upon the premiere of his Fifth Symphony, which was deservedly hailed as a masterpiece and described by the authorities as "the creative reply of a Soviet artist to justified criticism." In 1948, he was named a People's Artist of the Republic of Russia, only to be denounced again that same year. He was eventually named Composer Laureate of the Soviet Union.
Although Shostakovich's fame rests largely upon a number of his 15 symphonies, he also devoted considerable attention to chamber music, composing 15 string quartets and two piano trios, among others. Written in 1923, the one-movement First Trio remains unpublished. The Trio no. 2 in E Minor, op. 67, was written during the summer of 1944 as a memorial to the composer's close friend, Ivan Sollertinsky, an eminent musicologist, who had died the previous February in a Nazi concentration camp. Officially the E-Minor Trio is not programmatic in nature, but, as with most Soviet music written at about the same time, this work is certainly and inexorably concerned with the devastation of World War II. It is introspective and melancholic, with occasional flourishes of the brilliance and playfulness shown in many of Shostakovich's other works.
The plaintive Andante introduction to the first movement features the striking effect of a theme in high cello harmonics to a counterpoint in the low-lying violin. The Moderato main body of the movement is in fairly clear-cut sonata form and continues the polyphonic texture typical of the work as a whole. Here there are kinships to the music of Mahler, in which outwardly commonplace material is given weight by the emotional context in which it is delivered.
The second movement is a whirlwind of a Scherzo, wherein the gaiety has a rather forced, almost drunken quality that is nonetheless compelling. The Largo third movement is an elegiac passacaglia, in which a dramatic succession of chords in the piano are repeated six times as the basis for deeply moving contrapuntal lines in the string instruments.
The third movement proceeds into the fourth without a pause. As a tribute to Sollertinsky's heritage the Finale contains a theme of Hebrew origin that has been likened to a dance of death. The rhythm here is steady, relentlessly driving to an impassioned climax. In this section, a subject derived from the opening first movement theme makes an appearance. The music gradually becomes more and more ethereal, and there is a poignant reference to the third movement before the work reaches its quiet conclusion.
Copland Violin Sonata
Aaron Copland began his Sonata for Violin and Piano in 1942 in Oakland, N. J., and completed it in 1943 in Hollywood, where he was writing music for the MGM film "The North Star," a score later nominated for an Academy Award. The composer recalled:
"I had carried sketches for a violin and piano piece with me to California. During the frequent periods when I had to wait for the studio to move ahead on The North Star, I played through the piano parts of violin sonatas from various periods … For whatever reasons, at that time I had little desire to compose a dissonant or virtuosic work, or one that incorporated folk materials. Nevertheless, certain qualities of the American folk tune had become part of my natural style of composing, and they are echoed in the Sonata. It is composed in the usual three movements, with the last two to be played without pause."
The first movement, based on an eight-note phrase with the interval of a fourth prominent, alternates in mood between a tender lyricism and a more rapidly paced section. Changes in the timing occur throughout; in fact, the strong feeling of contrasting moods in the composition is achieved mainly through rhythmic changes.
The second movement, in a simple ABA form with two-part counterpoint between the instruments, is calm and bare in outline. The scherzo-like third movement is characterized by irregular rhythms and a strong penetrating melody. The Sonata ends with a short coda that refers back to the theme of the opening movement.
Copland dedicated the Violin Sonata to the memory of Lieutenant Harry H. Dunham, a close friend of his who died in action in the South Pacific shortly after the work was completed. A wealthy Princeton alumnus, Dunham was described by Copland’s fellow composer and friend, David Diamond, as “the most adorable, good-looking boy.” Diamond, one of the two violinists who assisted Copland in the bowings and fingerings (the other was Louis Kaufman), remembered visiting his friend’s apartment on 63rd Street (“a dismal sanctuary” according to drama critic Harold Clurman, also Copland’s friend):
“We played the Violin Sonata together in a 'loft performance' before it was premiered at a League concert. Aaron had these musical evenings where we’d all come. He would say, 'David, take care of the stuff to eat,' so I’d go to the shops on 10th Avenue and bring things. I would always cook up a storm, because I was a good cook.”
The Sonata for Violin and Piano was premiered at Town Hall, N. Y., on January 17, 1944, by Ruth Posselt and Copland. Sponsored by the publisher Boosey & Hawkes, the concert featured four new works: Quincy Porter’s Seventh String Quartet, Britten’s First String Quartet, Copland’s Violin Sonata and Goosens’s Quartet no. 2, op. 59-all of which were commissioned by Coolidge.
-Tomás C. Hernández, Music Division, Library of Congress