Friday, November 11, 2011:Sages of the Stage

The Guarneri Trio Prague always offers an inspiring performance.

Sages of the Stage

In popular music, it’s often said that a band who has reached a certain “expiry date” should retire from the stage. Pop music has little patience for the experience and wisdom of age, preferring instead the rebellion and idealism of youth.

But here were three silver-to-white-haired musicians, the Guarneri Trio Prague, performing as part of the Prague Symphony Orchestra chamber music series at St. Simon and Jude, Nov 1. Ivan Klánský (piano), Čeněk Pavlík (violin), and Marek Jerie (cello) were clearly at the top of their game, playing with a vigor one could only call “youthful.”

Led by Mr Klánský, the Trio alternately hacked, sawed and pounded on their instruments and whispered to them, eliciting some of the most plaintive, delicate sounds you can imagine. The sheer control and technique mastered by these sages of the classical stage would put any young musician, no matter how precocious or brilliant, to shame.

They started off with an Opus 23, an interesting if not terribly moving piece by by Josef Suk, a composer widely regarded as Dvořák’s heir, then moved on to Smetana’s Trio in G Minor, a dramatic elegy on the death of the composer’s 5-year-old daughter, which turned into an energetic piece; and ended with Dvorak’s playful Dumky. Throughout, Mr Klánský’s head bobbed and nodded vigorously to the beat; he closed his eyes and then opened them with delight as he anticipated the surprises embedded in each of the compositions. Mr Jerie, his back straight, swayed with rhythm while Mr Pavlík, perhaps the most animated of the three, seemed to put his whole body into the movement of his bow.

Left to right: Ivan Klánský, Čeněk Pavlík, Marek Jerie

For the encore, Marek Jerie seemed to have forgotten, or not been provided with, his score. Mr Klánský kept the audience distracted with jokes and anecdotes while Mr Jerie tried to find his sheet, rousing the crowd several times to uproarious laughter. The music clearly not being there, the Trio then improvised, playing from memory Dvorak’s Humoresque and missing not a single note of that well-known piece.

It was during their encore that one really got to see how well these old masters could manage a crowd, and a packed house at that.

In fact, they were were possibly the best live musicians I’ve seen. – oo

– Joshua Mensch

Photo Credits: c Tomasz Trzebiatowski

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