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Bernard Greenhouse

I was sad to read yesterday that cellist Bernard Greenhouse died on Friday. He was a founding member of the Beaux Arts Trio, which I saw many times in my last few years in Boston.

The NYT obituary explained that when the trio was founded in 1955, the piano trio literature was not widely performed.

Piano trios faced their own obstacles. For chamber-music lovers, the string quartet, with its evenly married sonorities and vast repertory, was the ensemble of choice. The sonic challenge entailed in combining a violin and a cello with a piano, akin to pairing gentle breezes with a thunderclap, was something performers were rarely willing to take on.

As a result, there were few high-level piano trios at the time the Beaux Arts began. Those that did exist were generally shotgun affairs, created when three prominent soloists converged in the recording studio and dissolved immediately afterward.

Though born of similar circumstances — it was convened primarily to make recordings — the Beaux Arts was different. Its players remained together, dedicated to performing the neglected trio literature, which encompasses works by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Dvorak and Shostakovich, among others.

After making its debut at Tanglewood, the Beaux Arts became a fixture of concert stages throughout the world; in New York, it performed regularly at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

It seems I fell in love with chamber music at a good time, given that my favorite chamber pieces of all were the Brahms piano trios. Speaking of which, watch the video below, featuring not the Beaux Arts Trio (I couldn’t find them), but Eugene Istomin, Isaac Stern, and Leonard Rose. Not a bad alternative.

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