Music Review: Pressler and Friends
‘Replacement’ friend fills in at last minute for annual concert
June 19, 2012
A “friend” was changed almost at the last minute, but from what one heard Sunday afternoon in Auer Hall, that didn’t appear to bother the musicians at all.
It was “Menahem Pressler and Friends” time once again, an annual event local fans devotedly wait for. And one of the “friends” on this occasion was to have been cellist Antonio Meneses, a Pressler colleague in the late years of the Beaux Arts Trio.
Meneses, however, had travel problems and couldn’t get here by concert hour. The seemingly-never-fazed Pressler must have thought for a moment, made a phone call, and — presto — Desmond Hoebig showed up: Hoebig, cello professor at Rice University’s prestigious Shepherd School of Music and former, for six seasons, principal cellist of the Cleveland Orchestra, no less.
Hoebig was not only in his seat on the Auer stage. He fit in perfectly, as did the other two friends pianist Pressler had chosen earlier for the 2012 edition of his “Friends” series: violinist Andres Cardenes, an IU alum (he studied with the legendary Josef Gingold) and past concertmaster, for 21 years, of the Pittsburgh Symphony, and violist Paul Neubauer, one-time principal violist for the New York Philharmonic and now on the faculty of the Juilliard School.
They made music together on Sunday (and again on Monday evening), quite wonderful music. For the musicians, the repertoire was undoubtedly familiar although, still, a challenge as great music tends to be. For listeners, it was comfort food: Mozart, Schubert, Schumann and, for an encore, Brahms.
The four teamed first for Mozart’s Piano Quartet in E-Flat Major, K. 493, with its abundant ebullience and lyricism in the early movements and comic charm in the closing Allegretto. The playing was nimble, Pressler leading the way, his amazingly limber fingers racing accurately and precisely every which way.
Then, with Pressler, for once, on the sidelines, Schubert’s String Trio in B-Flat Major followed, a fragment of an unfinished piece that the composer produced at age 19. Its single movement pays homage to Haydn and Mozart, requires a weightless sort of touch and feel, and received it. From his violin, Cardenes floated some particularly gorgeous phrases.
The Schumann Piano Quartet in E-Flat Major, Opus 47, was written with a cellist friend in mind. That instrument got some heavy-duty work, all of it also quite beautiful. Hoebig handled his responsibilities with lush tones and a seemingly innate sense for the music. But so, too, his compatriots joined in to enhance the mood. The score holds drama in the opening movement, an Allegro ma non troppo; joyous abandon in the Scherzo; soulful song in the Andante Cantabile, and exuberance in the wind-up Vivace. The whole amounts to Schumann at his Romantic best, and the musicians responded in kind. The audience cheered.
For an encore, the musicians turned to the Andante from Brahms’ C Minor Piano Quartet, Opus 60, considered to be the composer’s love song for Clara Schumann, written to express his yearning for a woman he knew could never be his, despite their long-standing and close friendship. The music weeps and adores. Menahem Pressler and his friends, through their performance, wept and adored.