Emerson String Quartet / Evgeny Kissin

The New York Concert: Mozart, Fauré, Dvorák

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Chamber music collaborations featuring players who were already superstars in their own fields, were a fixture of the golden age of classical recordings on LP, but they've gradually fallen out of fashion. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as collaborations among highly individualistic players often leave a lot to be desired. It's been a while since a chamber music event was big enough to merit a title like "The New York Concert," and the Emerson String Quartet and pianist Evgeny Kissin certainly qualify as individualistic, but against the odds, this grouping works big-time. Kissin is not known as a chamber player, but he often seems to set the pace, backing off nicely when necessary, but also inserting a note of tension that causes the quartet to respond. The results in the Dvorák Piano Quintet in A major, Op. 81, are nothing short of sublime. Sample the slow movement, marked with the folk-dance term "Dumka." Kissin here leads a unique interpretation, pressing against the folk rhythms and producing a piece of deep, tense melancholy. You might expect the group to overpower the Mozart Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor, K. 478, but they do not, and their reading of this unsettled work is deeply persuasive. You might not pick any of these musicians as Fauré interpreters, either, but even here they do well. The encore is the Scherzo from the Shostakovich Piano Quartet in G minor, Op. 57 and the minatory vigor of this reading gets a big cheer from the New York audience at the end. It's well deserved, all the way though. Perhaps it was the space, Carnegie Hall, that inspired these musicians to step forward and fill it; the engineers certainly did their part. A major chamber music event.

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