Menahem Pressler / Quatuor Ebène

A 90th Birthday Celebration: Live in Paris

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The career of pianist and chamber music specialist Menahem Pressler dates back to the World War II era. He was a member of the Beaux Arts Trio for its entire existence from 1955 to 2008, and apparently he wasn't ready to retire along with the rest of the group. This album was recorded live at the Salle Pleyel in Paris on audio and video in November 2013, just before Pressler's 90th birthday, and it's not only extraordinary for a 90-year-old, it's exciting in absolute terms. The audio CD presents two cornerstones of the Romantic chamber repertory, the Piano Quintet in A major, Op. 81, of Dvorák, and the Piano Quintet in A major, D. 667 ("Trout"), of Schubert. Both performances, passionate and hell-for-leather, represent a meeting of the minds between Pressler and the Quatuor Ebène, but what's notable is how often Pressler seems to be directing the proceedings. Sample the slow movement of the Schubert (track 7), where the forward impetus clearly is coming from Pressler. An included DVD covers the same music, some Schubert songs with tenor Christoph Prégardien and some encores presenting the quartet and Pressler solo, plus an affectionate tribute from the audience at the end. There are a few glitches, but not more than other pianists make in true live recordings, and overall it's hard to escape the impression that this is the kind of chamber performance just not heard anymore. The only real complaint is the respiratory distress of what seems an unusually large portion of the audience.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
blue highlight denotes track pick