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Jerry Dubins
Fanfare, July 2017

Expectations for this ran high. The Indiana University-based Pacifica Quartet…and venerated pianist Menahem Pressler of Beaux Arts Piano Trio fame, came together here for a performance of Brahms’s Piano Quintet that promised something truly special, a promise that was fulfilled.

…what immediately struck me about this performance by the Pacifica Quartet and Menahem Pressler was the somewhat slower than usual tempos the players adopt and the deliberateness of precision with which they deliver the accents and cadential chords. There’s a tragic fatefulness that hangs heavy over their reading of the first movement, which imparts to it a crushing weight and ordains its doomed destiny. Where others become excited and even frantic, Pressler and the PQ sound determinedly fatalistic.

…beyond special, this performance of the piece, at least in my experience, is unique; I’d even go so far as to say it’s a significant departure from the norm. …Cleanly executed and note-perfect the performance surely is, but this is an interpretation of Brahms’s Piano Quintet…that projects a vision most dire and baleful.

On display in the Pacifica’s performance [String Quartet No. 1] is all of the virtuosity and musical integrity the ensemble brought to its brilliant Mendelssohn cycle. I’d even go so far as to say that it may well be the most meticulously executed performance of the piece I know. The players make as much of the music as can be made of it… Schumann’s quartet is a quality work, maybe even a masterpiece, …Urgently recommended. © 2017 Fanfare Read complete review

Huntley Dent
Fanfare, July 2017

Pressler’s experience—one is tempted to say authority—in chamber music shines through in this reading with the Pacifica Quartet of the Brahms Piano Quintet.

The blending of forces is quite beautiful, and the subtle way that Pressler moves in and out of Brahms’s complex textures adds a dimension of musicality one doesn’t find when the piano part dominates the scene, as it tends to do with jet-setting virtuosos.

The warmth of this performance, and its continual feeling of rightness, came primarily from Pressler, I imagine, but there’s no sense that young whippersnappers are making concessions to Grandpa. © 2017 Fanfare Read complete review

Gil French
American Record Guide, July 2017

The first two movements are truly lovely. Menahem Pressler, who was 90 when recording was made in 2014, is supremely musical. The tempo—or I should say, the style—is very relaxed, unhurried, gingerly, comforting. The piano is perfectly balanced with the quartet, and notes seemed beautifully articulated initially, …There’s power aplenty when the music is dramatic. In II Pressler’s balance when playing thirds and sixths is exquisite; and his shift from the A-major to the E-major section is utterly delicate and subtle, especially as the players almost imperceptibly quicken the tempo. © 2017 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide

Marc Rochester
MusicWeb International, June 2017

…the Pacifica come up with a sumptuously beautiful and magnificently eloquent account of the Schumann Quartet. Lyrical lines flow with an almost loving tenderness, while rhythmic figures are crisply delivered. Dynamics are fully exploited and that aura of close comradeship and easy togetherness which marks out any top-notch chamber group is always vividly present… Subtle changes of speed and deftly turned phrases seem to flow naturally from all four players in this glorious exhibition of outstanding chamber playing, and the slow movement has surely never been recorded with quite such luxuriant breadth. © 2017 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Remy Franck
Pizzicato, June 2017

The string players are respectful of Menahem Pressler’s slow tempi in the Brahms Quintet, but also fully engaged in the dialogue the old man is having with his younger colleagues. Their playing is much more free in the Schumann Quartet, and the composition gets what it needs in terms of passion and intensity. © 2017 Pizzicato

Jed Distler, May 2017

Menahem Pressler was 91 when he recorded the Brahms Piano Quintet for the first time in his long and distinguished career in 2014. He’s clearly up to the task. Admittedly, tempos are slower than usual for the most part, and you won’t find the kind of dynamism and power in loud tuttis commonly served up by younger keyboard hotshots—although Pressler suddenly sheds decades in the finale’s exultant coda, matching the Pacifica Quartet’s urgent sweep note for note. There’s purpose and meaning in every phrase, every gesture, and every nuance on Pressler’s part. © 2017 Read complete review

Phil Muse
Audio Video Club of Atlanta, May 2017

The Pacifica Quartet, consisting of violinists Simin Ganatra and Sibbi Bernhardsson, violist Masumi Per Rostad, and cellist Brandon Vamos, give incisive, deeply penetrating performances of major chamber works by Brahms and Schumann. The recordings were made in Auer Hall at Indiana University, where the quartet have been in residence since 2012 and where Menahem Pressler, their very distinguished collaborator in the Brahms, has taught for almost 60 years(!) From the evidence of the present recording, his pianistic skills have been undiminished by age.

The two works provide an interesting contrast. Robert Schumann, so often characterized by scholars as a figure whose reach exceeded his grasp, particularly when attempting to pour the heady wine of the new romantic music into old bottles, seems quite at home here in his String Quartet, Op. 41, No. 1 in A minor. The flow of musical ideas is easy and natural, revealing Schumann to be in full command of his material and able to mold the received classical quartet form to his own purposes. © 2017 Audio Video Club of Atlanta Read complete review

Harriet Smith
Gramophone, May 2017

As you’d expect, this is not Brahms of driving energy, yet you are constantly aware that Pressler is a supreme chamber musician and the way he can illuminate even the most familiar passage is constantly fascinating. There’s a genuine conversation going on between string players and pianist… The Pacifica are superbly responsive and the first movement unfolds with a sense of epic drama. © 2017 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Fiona Maddocks
The Guardian, April 2017

The pianist Menahem Pressler was a founding member of the Beaux Arts Trio, a fabled name in chamber music from 1955 until 2008. Now 93, he is still playing. Inevitably, each new recording has particular value. Here, he thunders and dances through Brahms’s huge F minor quintet Op 34, embracing the grandeur of the opening, the poignancy of the Andante, the turbulence of the Scherzo and the impassioned high drama of the Finale. © 2017 The Guardian Read complete review

Gary Lemco
Audiophile Audition, March 2017

Pressler (at ninety-one) himself can still impress us with his suave, cascading runs. The “symphonic” aspect of the writing constantly urges the music to the limit of what the ensemble can project without distortion. Much of the music’s evolution takes cues from Beethoven and Schubert, particularly the latter’s combination of grandeur and intimate nostalgia. Menahem Pressler and the Pacifica Quartet take a moderate tempo for most of the movement, imbuing a resolutely somber cast on this music that does occasionally become tumultuously inflamed. © 2017 Audiophile Audition Read complete review, March 2017

This is well-known music that these players seem to know, and feel, better than just about anyone else who has recorded it. How is it possible that Pressler has never recorded this piece before? His technique seems made for it, precise and emotive and exceptional both in the way it blends with the strings as appropriate and with the way it stands out from them when that is apt. From the wonderfully expansive first movement, its warmth and cragginess equal factors in its effect, to the lovely respite of the Andante, un poco Adagio (perfectly paced here), through a Scherzo that aspires to the heights of emotional conveyance, to a finale that glides with apparent effortlessness from beauty to beauty, this is an exceptional reading that every lover of this music will be delighted to hear. Pressler and the Pacifica Quartet shed new light on the quintet again and again through a superb mixture of technique and musical understanding. …This CD has all the hallmarks of an honored “legacy” recording—which, given Simin Ganatra’s departure from the quartet and Menahem Pressler’s age, it is likely to become. © 2017 Read complete review

Lisa Flynn
WFMT (Chicago), March 2017

The Grammy Award-winning Pacifica Quartet joins forces with legendary pianist Menahem Pressler of the Beaux Arts Trio for Brahms’ Piano Quintet, a pillar of German Romanticism. While Pressler has performed the work for the past 50 years, this is his first recording of it. The album also offers Schumann’s String Quartet in A Minor, Op 41 No 1, which the Pacifica has been performing since early in its career. © 2017 WFMT (Chicago)

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