Review of the Concert by Trio Aeternus on 20 November 2016

A review by Peter Kingdon Booker

Alexander Stewart (violin), Lucjan Luc (piano) and Varoujan Bartikian (cello)

The visit of Trio Aeternus to Quintinha da Música was eagerly awaited, and the music produced by this trio of friends exceeded expectations. Trio Aeternus has recently visited Turkey, where they played Babajanian to an enthusiastic audience in Istanbul. The Trio Élégiaque no 1 by Rachmaninov was composed at his age 18, and it already shows some of the maturity of his later compositions. It is reminiscent in parts of Tchaikovsky´s Piano Concerto no 1, and the piece ends in a funereal tone. It was in a way a memorial to two music lovers, Anita Besselin and Wilja, who had recently died. The second piece was Arno Babajanian´s Piano Trio in F sharp minor, composed in 1951. Babajanian was born in Soviet Armenia, and his Soviet era trio was amazingly melodic. Here the cello plays and outstanding role, and we were lucky that Varoujan Bartikian is a leading player in Portugal. This piece is not well known, but audience members were pleased to hear music that to them was new, even if it had been hailed as a masterpiece on its first performance in 1953. Babajanian was a keen student of Armenian folk music, and used many of its melodies in this piece. The interval canapés provided by Teun and Maria were of their normal high standard. But nothing had prepared us for the Mendelssohn Piano Trio no 1 op 49 of the second part of the concert. Composed in 1839, this trio is one of Mendelssohn´s greatest and most popular compositions. When he heard this piece, Schumann referred to Mendelssohn as the Mozart of the 19th century. Both violin and cello had their moments of prominence, but the playing of Lucjan Luc at the piano in the final movement was quite extraordinary for his apparent facility over difficult passages. To my ear, the Trio achieved the greatest harmony in this piece, showing that their friendship over ten years and more has helped them to achieve a harmony in their playing which is rare indeed. Algarve History Association sponsored this concert, and looks forward to receiving again the Trio Aeternus at some date in the near future.

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