Beethoven: Cello Sonata No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 5, No. 2
Beethoven: Violin Sonata No. 6 in A Major, Op. 30, No. 1
Beethoven: Piano Trio in E-flat Major, Op. 70, No. 2
Forty-eight hours after attending the first of three all-Beethoven concerts performed by Emmanuel Ax, Leonidas Kavakos and Yo-Yo Ma in celebration of the composer’s 250th birthday, I was back at Carnegie Hall on Friday evening. This time, however, my seat was serendipitously one level down — therefore closer to the action — and, most importantly, sans stinky dog as seat-mate, or even anybody on either side of me for that matter, which was quite remarkable for such a big night.
Needless to say, this new and vastly improved situation promised an even more enjoyable experience, never mind the gray and wet weather that had been plaguing us all day outside. Now I was inside the prestigious and familiar confined of the Stern Auditorium with some very friendly out-of-towners who were busying themselves trying to take selfies, although they “don’t usually do that”, in the row below me, and all was well again.
Following the same order as on Wednesday evening, Emmanuel Ax and Yo-Yo Ma got the evening going in the best possible way. Indeed, Beethoven’s Cello Sonata No. 2 immediately stood out for its superbly soaring introduction that would have made its later infectious exuberance almost intrusive if it had not been for the perfectly calibrated change of moods that had been carefully engineered by the composer and, as could be expected, was expertly handled by the duo.
After he was done, Yo-Yo Ma made way for Leonidas Kavakos so that we could all move on to Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 6. The first of the three sonatas of Opus 30, this immediately engaging chamber music work not only can boast of having the perfect blend of luminous lyricism and intense drama, but also features a particularly gorgeous Adagio, which Kavakos predictably performed with utmost sensitivity.
After intermission, the three musicians were back on the stage together for Beethoven’s Piano Trio in E-flat Major, but not before Ma grabbed a handkerchief from his pocket and gamely adjusted Kavakos’ music stand. Because that’s what friends are for!
Then they got around to playing, and the music got around to pouring in all its delicately intricate, but always accessible, splendor. Beethoven clearly knew how to come up with a score that pleased and challenged at the same time, and the seamlessly cohesive performance of the consummate professionals we had did it full justice.
Since on Wednesday night the encore had been by Schubert, I had figured that everything was possible on Friday night. And the lucky composer that had been hand-picked by those ultimate connoisseurs turned out to be… my beloved Brahms, and the beautifully melancholic Andante con moto from his Piano Trio No. 2 in C Major. A lovely party favor that not only was richly satisfying in itself, but also brought me right back to the thrilling all-Brahms recital that these three gentlemen had performed in the same hall last season.
Once all had been played and done, in a classy, sweet and, come to think of it, totally justified gesture, Kavakos and Ma made sure to single out a bashful Ax while taking their final bow, and it was on this heart-warming image that our Friday evening ended.
Two down. One more to go.