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MUSIC REVIEW : Israel Piano Trio in Pasadena

November 12, 1987|HERBERT GLASS

The Israel Piano Trio, which appeared at Ambassador Auditorium on Tuesday, is technically a first-rate ensemble whose interpretations are alert to the stylistic differences among such varied eras as those represented by Mozart, Ravel and Mendelssohn.

Violinist Menahem Breuer is an assertive but unpushy player whose light, penetrating tone is coupled to dead-center intonation and perfectly matched to the elegant cello of Marcel Bergman. Both, incidentally, are Israel Philharmonic principals.

On Tuesday, however, the group's offerings failed to achieve maximum impact because of pianist Alexander Volkov's overemployment of the damper pedal, a practice particularly to be avoided in the Ambassador's resonantly woody acoustic.

Even in the opening Mozart, the rather slender Trio in C, K. 548, keyboard tone seemed (to a listener seated on the left side of the orchestra section) insufficiently centered and incisive--in spite of the spiritedness of Volkov's work.

There is ample precedent for sonic haze in the A-minor Trio of Ravel, and one could easily be transported by the Israelis' long-lined, subtle reading. Still, in the big climaxes, particularly those of the finale, the great wash of piano tone simply obliterated the strings.

The single nod to offbeat programming was the inclusion not of Mendelssohn's Trio in D minor but his other, less familiar one in the key of C minor, Opus 66 .

It is a sweetly sentimental work, occasionally posing as a dramatic one in the Beethoven mold, that benefits immeasurably from the sort of propulsive reading it was accorded by the present artists. And here, either by force of will or simply having become accustomed to its sound, one could fully appreciate the vigor and fluency of Volkov's pianism.

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