The Cantilena Players offered works for piano quartet by Yehudi Wyner, Sergei Taneyev and Mozart in smoothly blended ensemble playing at the Hirshhorn auditorium last night. An American composer in his early 50s, Wyner was on hand to begin the program by providing a verbal introduction to his "Intermezzi," which was receiving its Washington premiere.
In modest deference to the grand tradition of the piano quartet literature, Wyner referred to the piece, which is actually a thematically related pair of intermezzos, as "a couple of bagatelles." If he did not attempt the scale of the past, Wyner nonetheless treated his material with a comparable thoughtfulness. An opening piano passage provided him with Brahmsian material which was then subjected to an exhaustive working out in the two pieces. The approach was 19th century in spirit and 20th century in technique -- a synthesis deliberately sought, as Wyner explained, and, for the most part, a successful and satisfying integration. The Cantilena Players, to whom "Intermezzi" is dedicated, caught the composer's intent with a performance of purpose and feeling.
The ensemble gave an equally committed interpretation of the E-Major Piano Quartet by Taneyev, a turn-of-the-century Russian who studied with Tchaikovsky and taught Rachmaninoff. His music is that of a man at peace with himself, contentedly ignoring more radical developments, unabashedly indulging in emotional outpourings. Apart from longnwindedness and, particularly in the second movement, a tendency to place more weight upon the material than it could bear, the Quartet proved eminently listenable. Cellist Marcy Rosen produced some particularly lovely passages, violist Philipp Naegele contributed solid musicianship, pianist Frank Glazer supplied a sound, if not overly subtle, foundation and violinist Edna Michell, despite a few technical problems, shaped sensitive lines. Mozart's E-Flat Major Piano Quartet received a capable, though not especially inspired, reading.