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Classical Album of the Week: Evgeny Kissin and Emerson Quartet's Memorable Carnegie Hall Performance

July 29, 2019. When Evgeny Kissin made a rare chamber music appearance with the Emerson Quartet in April 2017, Carnegie Hall quickly sold out. The veteran artists chose to collaborate in three masterworks from the piano/strings chamber reperotire, and the resulting concert and encore nearly “lifted the lid off the hall,” said The New York Times.Deutsche Grammophon captured the performance, and we’ve made it our Classical Album of the Week.

Mozart created the first masterwork for the piano quartet form (piano, violin, viola and cello) and his understanding of what each instrument can do, and can do together, is astonishingly revealed in the ensemble’s performance of his G minor Quartet, K. 478, which opens the album.

Less successful is the ensemble’s rendition of the later, Romantic works on the album, Gabriel Fauré’s Piano Quartet in C minor, Op. 15, and Antonin Dvorak’s Piano Quintet No. 2 in A major, Op. 81.

Both are great works, powerful and lyrical in their distinctive ways. In both, the string writing is more exposed, and as a result, less-than-ideal intonation, passagework, and tone production at times from the upper strings is evident. However, Kissin’s playing remains majestic and brilliant throughout, and drives the performance.

Departing from the Classical/Romantic vein for their encore, the Scherzo from Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet, Op. 57, displays an earthy, propulsive, percussive quality that suits the ensemble exceptionally well. How would the group interpret the entire quintet? It’s an intriguing question.

Debra's last day on the air at WRTI was September 21st, 2021. She's now the radio host for The Metropolitan Opera. Read more here.