ATOS Trio at Tishman Auditorium New York

Trio élégiaque No.1 in G minor
Piano Trio in G minor, Op.26
Piano Trio in B flat, Op.97 (Archduke)

ATOS Trio [Annette von Hehn (violin), Stefan Heinemeyer (cello) & Thomas Hoppe (piano)]

Reviewed by: Elizabeth Barnette

Reviewed: 10 April, 2011
Venue: Tishman Auditorium, The New School, New York City

ATOS Trio. Photograph: www.atos-trio.deAfter starting their tour in the Kennedy Center, the members of the ATOS Trio came to New York to play different programs on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. Easing into Rachmaninov’s Trio élégiaque, their intimate playing immediately engaged and they showed no sign of fatigue.

Unfortunately, the venue proved to be a hindrance. During the almost-inaudible opening of the piece, loud squeaking from a seat in the audience area added an extra-musical element, and, at the close, so did the backing-up beep from a truck outside. The acoustics of the oval-shaped Tishman Auditorium perfectly project the sounds from musicians, but that also included more creaking coming from the benches on which Thomas Hoppe and Stefan Heinemeyer sat, as well as from other audience seats. Striving to ignore extraneous noises, the effort was well worth it, for the players perfectly shaped the dramatic arch of Rachmaninov’s youthful one-movement work. From its hushed beginning it grew into full-blooded passion with perfectly matched octaves between violin and cello.

Unlike in his popular later piano trios, Dvořák had not really found his individual voice in the G minor example, except perhaps for the folk-like elements in the third movement. In the finale he gets stuck on a short rhythmic motif, as sometimes happened to Schubert. Nevertheless, the ATOS Trio made the most of Dvořák’s early effort, including moments of great subtlety in the coda of the first movement, and in Heinemeyer’s beautiful cello solo at the opening of the second.

The highpoint was the ‘Archduke’ Trio, Beethoven a master of the genre, distinguished here by a performance of impeccable coherence with gentle guidance by Stefan Heinemeyer who has an artistic presence that envelops his fellow musicians like a field of energy, unifying their approach. The section at the end of the first-movement development – starting pianissimo with pizzicatos and with ethereal trills on the piano, ever increasing in intensity, then dynamics, before finally yielding to a piano recapitulation – was the perfect example of painstaking rehearsal and artistic instincts. In the second movement the relaxed side of Beethoven emerged, as did mysterious moods and unexpected outbursts in the trio. For the Andante Hoppe found just the right tempo for his noble opening statement, and in the second Variation Annette von Hehn and Heinemeyer traded perfectly matched and tuned delicate figurations, eventually leading into the spirited finale, and a blazing coda.

The members of the ATOS Trio have established themselves as true artists, and for an encore offered the finale of Haydn’s Piano Trio in A (Hoboken 18).

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