Istomin-Stern-Rose Trio performs BEETHOVEN: Trio in C Minor; BRAHMS: Piano Trio No. 2 in C Major; SAINT-SAENS: Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso

by | Jul 27, 2005 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Istomin-Stern-Rose Trio performs BEETHOVEN: Trio in C Minor,
Op. 1, No. 3; BRAHMS: Piano Trio No. 2 in C Major, Op. 87; SAINT-SAENS:
Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28

The Bell Telephone Orchestra/Donald Vorhees
Studio: VAI DVD 4337
Video: 4:3 color/B&W
Audio: PCM mono
Extras: Bonus track
Length: 66:35
Rating: ****

Between 1961 and 1984, until the death of cellist Leonard Rose
(1918-1984), the piano trio comprised of Isaac Stern (1920-2001) and
Eugene Istomin (1925-2003) maintained an exalted position among
international chamber ensembles. While Isaac Stern held no personal
marvels for me in terms of his sleazy politics with Columbia Artists
Management, his dedication to music was never in doubt. This CBC
telecast from 23 June 1965 before a live audience captures Stern and
esteemed colleagues in fine form, perhaps nowhere to more advantage
than in the labyrinthine theme-and-variations of the Beethoven Trio in
C Minor’s second movement, beautifully balanced. The bare floor and
barbed-wire background set behind the ensemble might give us the
impression we were witnessing music being made in the confines of a
concentration camp. High-altitude and overhead shots abound, which then
cut to individual cameos of each of the players, while the spare and
anonymous audience rests in the shadows.  The rhythmic
give-and-take in the Beethoven Menuetto has the camera creeping up on
the players, then settling into a medium shot of all three, only to
focus on Leonard Rose as the sonic fulcrum. A nod, and the Prestissimo
finale wends its furious course, with each player’s rapt attention on
his own instrument. Deep focus shots center Istomin in the middle of a
distant musical diamond. The ensuing clapping sounds like firecrackers.

The Brahms opens with no backlighting, so the music’s somber cast is
intensified, even as to the camera peering into Stern’s sheet music.
Intimacy of expression proves the rule, here, with Istomin–a fine
Brahms player who refused Bruno Walter’s offer to record the D Minor
Concerto–proffering exquisite diminuendi in the development section of
the Allegro, almost in the style of an intermezzo. Stern’s intonation,
generally rather sloppy a few years later, is razor sharp, while Rose
packs a fast vibrato in his no-nonsense approach. The ghostly Scherzo
shivers and weaves splendid, seamless ensemble amongst the principals,
with overhead and super-imposed images successively adding to the
witches brew. The Finale: Allegro giocoso is all business, with Istomin
letting out the stops of his hitherto subito approach, while Stern and
Rose mix it up over rippling, velvet arpeggios. Stern leans hard into
the bow for the coda, and the concluding bars sweep the audience away,
whom the camera finally reveals to be twice as numerous as they had
appeared until then. The bonus track is taken from Great Violinists of
The Bell Telephone Hour (4 March 1959), which I reviewed previously.

–Gary Lemco

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