Wister and More! presents the Pyxis Piano Quartet

Pyxis's musical journey

The large and regal building of the German Society of Pennsylvania houses an elegant auditorium used for many functions, including a concert series. This week, the Wister and More! Series hosted a concert by the Pyxis Piano Quartet.

L to r: from left: Amy Leonard, Meredith Amado, Jie Jin, Hiroko Yamazaki. (Photo by Karen Gowen)

Delaware audiences have embraced the four-woman team, which was founded in 2009. Their concerts at the Delaware Art Museum are mobbed. Music quartets require a relationship as intimate as, or more so than many marriages. They must rehearse constantly to develop that ability to think, breathe, and play collectively, and the ensemble dominates their lives.

The group’s founding violinist, Meredith Amado, moved to a small town in rural Maine, so they are looking for a new violinist. For this concert, they appeared with guest violinist Eliezer Gutman, concertmaster of the Kennett Symphony, Allentown Symphony, and Opera Delaware. Born in Romania, Mr. Gutman has both a highly polished technique and lighthearted spirit when he plays the violin.

Cleared for takeoff

The first piece, Mozart en Route, a trio by Aaron Jay Kernis, was written for children, and was inspired by a letter from Mozart in which he complained that his carriage journey was rough. The performance might have been more effective if they slowed it down, but playing at the tempo they used meant the reverberations of the room made the sudden jazz licks and folk flourishes hard to hear.

When pianist Hiroko Yamazaki joined the trio for Mozart’s Piano Quartet No. 2 in E-flat major, K. 493, her ability to produce quiet gossamer whispers on the Bösendorfer grand piano gave the group a chance to take advantage of that reflective sound. Each voice entered as if the stage had been cleared for takeoff.  This was beautifully executed in the contrapuntal sections of the third movement. The timing, dynamics and voices came together, and the result was a thrilling, yet delicate, rendition. The violin and viola were so closely aligned that when they exchanged voices they used the same register and intonation, becoming almost indistinguishable.

The Piano Quartet in C minor, Opus 13 by Richard Strauss, showed both his fascination with Brahms and the early harmonic experiments that led to his tone poems. The string writing pushed the string players to the fore, sometimes at a frenetic pace in the scherzo. The andante, which has some of the most Brahmsian melodic writing, was calmer. In this movement, Strauss wrote some wonderful melodic lines for the cello, which Jie jin unfolded with melting lyricism.

Ms. Yamazaki has played with the Delaware Symphony as a guest artist many times and the three string players have been members as well, but for them to produce such a cohesive performance with a new violinist is remarkable. The challenge of seeking someone new for their ensemble will be a maturing journey for the group and seems to be a very musical one as well.

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