|Pyxis Piano Quartet performs at Market Street Music.
Photo by Joe Gawinski.
Market Street Music welcomed spring and Pyxis Piano Quartet to its Festival Concert series on Sunday, March 19, 2017, which paired Beethoven’s String Trio in G major with Faure’s Piano Quartet in C minor.
The Opus 9 string trios offer a fascinating portrait of the young composer bursting with ideas as he took a musical form born as the baroque trio sonata and gave it new life as only he could. But as striking as they are, they represent the last gasp for a form that would soon be eclipsed by the string quartet.
Pyxis wisely chose the first Trio of Op. 9, a gem from its opening note to its last. This performance of the longest and most difficult of the trios earned the ensemble a well-deserved ovation. The opening and closing movements were technically perfect in every dimension. The wonderful slow movement with its pastoral theme in the distant key of E major received a most moving, heart-longing treatment. The breadth of expressiveness was especially remarkable considering the movement’s simplicity of form.
A proper contrast to the Adagio came with the buoyancy of the Scherzo and then with even more vitality a throw-caution-to-the-wind finale. All in all, a fitting performance of one of Beethoven’s “best works so far.”
Violist Amy Leonard introduced the Faure Piano Quartet by telling the audience that while she and her colleagues couldn’t offer Paris in springtime, they could bring a bit of the city into First & Central Presbyterian Church.
Leonard also noted that while the work is cast in a minor key, it’s a “happy minor,” with a positive tone albeit with some hints in the slow movement of the turmoil in Faure’s personal life at the time of composition.
Leonard contextualized the work by noting that just as Beethoven was a transitional figure between the Classical and Romantic periods, Faure stood at the crossroads of the Romantic and modern eras. Indeed, Romanticism and its doleful heroics are left behind in this work. The first movement is a fluid blending of energy and lyricism. The high-spirited and virtuosic Scherzo delights with pizzicato-pricked perpetuum mobile fantasy. The grand Adagio imbues profound passion with classical restraint and balance. A soaring Allegro caps all with a shimmering major/minor gaiety.
Balance, ensemble, superb intonation and sensitive interpretation characterized this performance. None of the loud passages were overplayed. When one player had a solo passage, they came out just enough then returned to their dynamic place.
Special honors go to pianist Hiroko Yamazaki. Pianists have a special balance problem when playing in quartets because the sound of their instrument is so much fuller than a single string instrument. Not so here. Yamazaki was always at the correct level. Quite remarkable!