Dvorak: Piano Quartet, Romantic Pieces, Sonatina / Ax, Stern, Ma

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A chamber-music ensemble of star instrumentalists is an oxymoron; this foursome proves to be the exception. Isaac Stern is the key: His thrilling tone may have diminished and impeccable technique eroded, but his innate musicality has grown into wisdom. He is the Rudolf Serkin of our day, influencing innumerable young artists to become musicians rather than superstars. Which is not to slight the three others here: Each fits the mold perfectly, and Laredo and Ma have been strongly influenced by both Serkin and Stern. The four play as one, with youthful exuberance as well as the wisdom of age. The playing is filled with rhythmic vitality and avoids any touch of sentimentality. That it also has little Czech warmth is emphasized by rather clinical recorded sound. There have been more emotional performances (Josef Suk and colleagues) and more elegant ones (Artur Rubinstein with Guarneri members, Menahem Pressler with Emerson), but this sturdy reading is well worth hearing.

The duo performances are in a similar mold. The Sonatina is a delight, a blend of spirit and ease. The Romantic Pieces need a more luminous tone and vivacious expression than Stern provides. He receives sympathetic support from pianist Robert McDonald.

-- James H. North, FANFARE [9/2000]

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: SONY56141

  • UPC: 886975614127

  • Label: Sony

  • Composer: Antonín Dvořák

  • Performer: Emanuel Ax, Isaac Stern, Jaime Laredo, Robert McDonald, Yo-Yo Ma