In performance: Menahem Pressler and friends
Menahem Pressler and friends unite in nuanced Dvorak
by Joe Banno
Dvorak's E-flat Piano Quartet, Op. 87, is an emotionally all-encompassing work that changes its restive mood every few moments, and startles the ear with its inventiveness and beauty.
An ensemble simply called Pressler and Friends played the piece for all it was worth on Thursday evening at the Library of Congress, rising to the score's grander moments with phrasing of sinewy strength, and falling into a rapt repose in the gorgeous Lento.
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But what really set the music-making apart was the members' superbly dovetailed interplay, their breathing as a group as if they'd been playing together all their lives. It's all the more remarkable, then, that these "Friends" -- violinist Alexander Kerr, violist Kim Kashkashian and cellist Eric Kim -- came together specifically for this program, as one of many ad hoc ensembles in varied programs, assembled season after season around a single common element: pianist Menahem Pressler.
Turning 87 this year, and after more than a half-century at the helm of the legendary Beaux Arts Trio, Pressler's concertizing has not slowed its pace. And as Thursday's program demonstrated, his understated, eloquently shaded playing can inspire a disparate gathering of colleagues to make music as if with one voice. It was the same in Mozart's E-flat Piano Quartet, K. 493, a work of rarest Apollonian beauties that blossomed under the group's elegantly woven playing. Even Lee Hoiby's charmingly neo-impressionist Serenade for Violin and Piano sounded a more profound piece when lavished with the painstaking care Kerr and Pressler gave it.
-- Joe Banno
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