This post appears courtesy of Delaware Arts INfo Blog.
The Sunday, October 14, 2018 concert by Pyxis Piano Quartet — as part of Market Street Music's Festival Concert series — at Wilmington’s First & Central Presbyterian Church revealed once again the abundance of talent within each member of this laudable ensemble. Members include Luigi Mazzocchi, violin; Amy Leonard, viola; Jennifer Jie Jin, cello and Hiroko Yamazaki, piano.
This 90-minute program offered works from the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries, including two of the most demanding in the repertoire: Mozart’s Piano Quartet in G minor, K. 478and Mendelssohn’s Piano Quarter in F minor, No. 2, Op. 2.
Mozart seems to have invented the piano quartet. There are no examples of the genre among his contemporaries or immediate predecessors, including the very inventive Haydn. He left only these two work but they count among the very best in the repertoire.
Mozart’s G minor quartet grew out of a commission from the Viennese publisher Franz Anton Hoffmeister for three such works. The remaining two were canceled when the publisher felt the finished work was too difficult for the amateur musician — the usual market for keyboard-based chamber music.
The quartet features true chamber music equality of part-writing, juxtaposing concerto-like passages in the piano with others in which the instrument fades and blends in with the strings in a lively interplay. The musicians effectively kept up the momentum throughout a cliffhanger of a development section which often hints at a resolution only to give way to other material. The second movement captivated with the sheer beauty of the playing, while the ensemble’s gentle handling of the phrasing in the finale provided a joyous conclusion to this darkly dramatic work.
Pianist Hiroko Yamazaki assumed an even more virtuosic role in Mendelssohn’s F minor quartet, while the string players offered less flamboyant bits, albeit ones that carried the thematic material. Leonard’s viola got to show off its high register during the exposition of the second theme. Yamazaki again displayed virtuosic technique in the rolling figurations throughout the Adagio movement which exhibited pure early Romanticism. The strings at last assumed an (almost) equal footing with their keyboard companion in the whiplash final movement.
The concert opened with a fine performance by Mazzocchi and Leonard of Martinu’s Three Madrigals for the (seemingly) austere combination of violin and viola. Each artist exaggerated the sounds of their instruments: Mazzocchi played up the brightness of the violin while Leonard reveled in the richness and warmth of the viola.
It would have been tempting to blend the sounds but this approach maintained the independent voices when it mattered most. The result was what sounded like a unique instrument with a remarkable range of timbre and pitch. The two instruments matched when in the same range, establishing unity while preserving the individual capabilities of both. This was exploited to maximum effect during the playful competition of the many imitative passages.