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2006 Concertgebouw Prize

“There is no other trio and maybe even no other international chamber music group that has performed in the Concertgebouw more often than the Beaux Arts Trio.”
– Martijn Sanders

Text Laudation Martijn Sanders:

concertgebouwDear Members of the Beaux Arts Trio,

It gives me great pleasure to address you, dear Menahem, dear Daniel, dear Antonio at the occasion of the second Concertgebouw Prize Ceremony.

As I was preparing this speech I was thinking about the strange mechanics of a trio. And in this case the Beaux Arts Trio that has now existed for no less than 50 years. Many of us who are present at this dinner know how difficult it to keep a relationship in a duo, let alone for 50 years. You have found a very practical solution, which is: keep the pianist, keep the name but change the partners.

It is not the length of the existence of the trio, however, that we celebrate here, but rather its prominence, its quality and its consistency. It is fair to say that in the centre of the trio is Menahem who has been the founding member and has always lead the trio musically, spiritually and certainly also socially. Every chamber music group is about cooperation. It deals with giving and taking, listening and reading and all of this at the same time. No other ensemble however, has a member who is so actively and visually engaged in that process. By watching Menahem on stage, as you will witness shortly hereafter, you see the process of chamber music making in its very essence. He leads and he follows, he is inspired and inspires others while he is in constant touch with his colleagues as well as with the music he performs. Ladies and gentlemen, the Beaux Arts Trio embodies the fact that what we have from the past are the music scores that the great composers have left behind. But music on paper has no meaning. It is just printed material until a musician brings it to life. In that interchange between the creation of the past and the performance of today lies the challenge for every artist. And I dare to say that the greater the artist, the heavier he or she experiences that challenge. Music is kept alive by the musicians of today and it would be dead if that musician would not take that responsibility. There is no piano trio which has risen to that challenge with more creativity and integrity than the Beaux Arts Trio.

Ladies en and gentlemen, I said before that the Beaux Arts Trio has changed its membership a number of times. If I counted correctly, the Beaux Arts Trio has had, apart from Mr. Pressler, seven other members. And it is only fair to mention one of them from the past, the great cellist who has been to the Concertgebouw with the trio very often, Bernard Greenhouse. He has been with the trio for 32 years. We remember him with gratitude and admiration.
The trio in its present composition has been operational for about four years. With Antonio Meneses, who had joined the trio five years earlier before the last member, Daniel Hope joined the group in 2002. I think it is fair to say that the trio in its present composition has reached a new level of excitement. Through the diversity of generations a sparkle of inventivity is released.

The repertoire of the piano trio is not as large as for example that of the string quartet. One of the great achievements of the Beaux Arts Trio is the fact that they have worked closely with many of the composers of their time. Last year at the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Beaux Arts Trio we had the opportunity, thanks to the contribution of a very committed private donor, to commission no less that two pieces for the piano trio. One for the trio and chamber orchestra by the young British composer Anthony Turnage and a short piece for the trio itself by maybe the most important composer of today: György Kurtág. He was so enthusiastic about the performance of his piece that he will extend his trio to a larger composition dedicated to the Beaux Arts Trio. We are grateful that the Trio has agreed to perform this very special and very short piece for us this evening.

All members of the Beaux Arts Trio have dedicated themselves especially to the education of a younger generation. Yesterday night we witnessed the first performance of a piece by the 24 year old composer Alexandra du Bois who is also present here tonight and who was stimulated by the trio to write a very moving and successful piece which was greeted by the audience with a lot of enthusiasm. Menahem has been teaching in the prestigious University of Indiana for the last 50 years and there is hardly any major pianist of chamber music player who has not profited from his wise lessons. He continues to coach younger ensembles as can be witnessed by the members the Dutch Storioni Trio who are also present at this dinner.

I have talked about quality and at the end I will talk about quantity. I have tried to count the number of concerts the Beaux Arts Trio has given in the Concertgebouw. Including tonight’s special performance that number has come to 50 since the year 1982. There is no other trio and maybe even no other international chamber music group that has performed in the Concertgebouw more often than the Beaux Arts Trio. Since that season 1981/1982 the trio has performed here at least once every season and sometimes even more than one time. Since the season 1991/92 the public in the recital hall for our series of piano trios of the Concertgebouw has become so large that we decided to double this series. And on special occasions we invited the trio for even more than two concerts a season. That happened when we celebrated half a century of Beaux Arts Trio in the Robeco summer concert series and when we celebrated Menahem’s 80th birthday in the Concertgebouw, at the occasion of which we had a portrait made by him by Paul van Dongen which will hang permanently in the foyers of the Kleine Zaal.

So it is with the fullest gratitude, confidence, appreciation and love, that we nominated the Beaux Arts Trio to our Board for the second Concertgebouw Prize. I would like to call the members of the trio on stage, as well as the Chairman of our Board, Mr. Rinnooy Kan, to present to you the award.

Text printed courtesy of Concertgebouw, image courtesy of Wikipedia

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