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Emerson String Quartet sells out Celebrity Series show / Boston Musical Intelligencer

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Tales of birth, death, oppression and academic politics lay behind the three works performed by the Emerson String Quartet at Sunday's Celebrity Series Boston concert in a sold-out Jordan Hall. Borges once noted that it takes great skill to make a story seem simple, and that applies as well to the honest, straightforward, "simple" and highly refined playing we heard.

Mozart's K. 421 is the second of his "Haydn" quartets and the only one in a minor key. For Mozart, D minor was associated with fate and death, as in his Requiem. In this case, the story line appears to have been influenced by all of the attendant complex emotions surrounding the impending birth of Mozart's first child.

With Eugene Drucker sitting as 1st violin, the foursome took the moderato tempo marking seriously, and with a light touch and burnished gold coloration, emphasized the debt and homage to Haydn. Subtle responsiveness and interaction prevailed among the instruments, each calling and responding to the other marvelously. Throughout, Paul Watkins's cello was grounded and supportive without being obtrusive. Elegant simplicity marked the melodic and graceful andante. The dramatic menuetto seemed to evoke the weight of responsibility, brightened temporarily by a sweet, almost celestial playfulness in the Trio, followed by a forceful return of the menuetto with bolder dynamics and greater f-p contrast. The siciliana theme in the last movement took on great emotional weight, with strong accents giving it the proper feeling of a full lifetime's vision, a dance of life-the only dance there is. The four variations moved successively through a dreamy, almost Romantic infancy, a jaunty, spritely youth, maturity and wisdom, to a final look back, reflective, a bit sorrowful, then the panic and angst of Mozart's wonderful ending and final cadence.

READ THE FULL Boston Musical Intelligencer REVIEW