The internationally celebrated, Grammy Award-winning Pacifica Quartet joins forces with legendary pianist Menahem Pressler of the Beaux Arts Trio for Johannes Brahms’s Piano Quintet in F Minor, Op. 34, a pillar of German Romanticism that opens with one of the most recognizable melodies in classical music. Pressler, a consummate chamber artist, performs the virtuosic piano part with a clarity and transparency that makes the piano seem like a fellow member of the string ensemble.
This noteworthy generation-crossing collaboration — a half-century separates the pianist, who is in his 90s, from the quartet members — yields a spacious, sweeping traversal of the Brahms Quintet that sets its own pace to build suspense and drama. While Pressler has performed the Brahms Quintet with marquee string quartets of the past 50 years, this is his first recording of it. The album offers the unusual, perhaps unprecedented, pairing of Brahms’s early Piano Quintet with a string quartet by his champion Robert Schumann, in this case, the String Quartet in A Minor, Op. 41, No.1. Dedicated to Mendelssohn, this buoyant, sprightly Romantic quartet showcases the Pacifica’s virtuosity and exuberant performance style while offering a contrast to Brahms’s moodier masterwork.
Quartet-in-residence at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, the Pacifica Quartet was previously quartet-in-residence at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the University of Chicago. The Quartet received the 2009 and 2021 Grammy Awards for Best Chamber Music Performance and was named “Ensemble of the Year” by Musical America. Menahem Pressler was a founding member of the illustrious, long-lived Beaux Arts Trio. The recipient of a Gramophone magazine Lifetime Achievement Award, he currently holds the rank of Distinguished Professor of Music at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music.