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K,L,R and Z

New York
Tisch Center for the Arts
11/30/1999 -  
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Piano Quartet # 1
Maurice Ravel: Piano Trio
Antonin Dvorak: Piano Quartet, Op. 87

Joseph Kalichstein (piano), Jaime Laredo (violin), Pinchas Zukerman (viola), Sharon Robinson (cello)

Three distinct types of expressions of passion were explored last evening by some of the finest chamber musicians on the planet when Pinchas Zukerman lent his expertise on the viola to the wonderful familial combination that is the KLR trio. Not just anyone can blend perfectly with this amazing group which seems to breathe and function organically as one musical unit, but Zukerman has been a fine participant in many such ensembles on both the violin and viola for many of his 48 years. His presence did nothing but enhance the already pleasing experience of hearing intimate music played in a manner appropriate to its intense level of emotive expression. I have been impressed with Zukerman since his wonderful recordings of both the Brahms Violin and Viola Sonatas many years ago with Daniel Barenboim and his maturity showed last night in a burnished solo tone and a fine sense of interactive listening.

The Mozart piece is an anomaly as it is in some ways a chamber piano concerto. In the light hands of Joseph Kalichstein the piano part does not dominate but rather is an equal partner and this may be the secret of this group’s consistent track record of excellence. When the mini-cadenza finally occurs, the listener is pleased that the piano shines through but never feels overwhelmed by its presence. The passion is of a controlled variety but burns under the surface in that signature Mozartian style, a mixture of exultant joy and deep-seated anger.

In the unique sonic landscapes of Maurice Ravel, the Piano Trio stands out as the most exotic of all. The man who cast Moussorgsky’s The Old Castle as a saxophone solo turns his advanced ear to a totally new world of sound in this incredible work of forbidden beauty. From the very first combination of tones so mysteriously foreign to the Western ear, the KLR performed this piece masterfully and emphasized its lyrical qualities while proving yet again how in touch they are with each other’s performance style. The second movement, a tour-de-force based on a Malayan system akin to Western double counterpoint, sounded in these artful hands like an aesthetic gift from another universe.

The most passionate of all of the works on the program was the remarkable Dvorak, so intense in its carnal qualities as to rival any of the great chamber works of his mentor Brahms. Here the trio plus one really shone, bowing and breathing together in an orgy of earthly delights evocative of the most sensual of all of the Dvorak works, the opera Rusalka. The large crowd was very pleased with this performance and lustily showered these wonderful musicians with applause. I try never to miss a KLR performance, not just because of the fine musicianship, but also for that confident feeling at the beginning that I will hear the best of all possible interpretations of the pieces in question. In an era of divided loyalties, jet-setting conductors and vituperative labor disputes (presently the New York City Ballet is being picketed by its orchestra and their response is to dance The Nutcracker with taped accompaniment), it is refreshing to experience so much dedication to quality and to luxuriate in the expression of passionate music making of the highest order.

Frederick L. Kirshnit



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