Beginning an evening of marvels was pianist Alessio Bax's recital of a well-matched pairing of Scriabin's 3rd Sonata and the Liebesleid of Kreisler in Rachmaninoff's version. Beautifully executed with his own voice, a sepia toned one, the concert transcription was more Rachmaninoff than Kreisler, more concerto than song, the finger-work more work than fingers. The wistfulness so inimitably sung by Kreisler was buttoned, and the smile with a tear at the ending in major missed the nostalgic. The textures in the cadenza were striking, distinct and well blended, but the crests of his waves tended to be a bit thick.
The concert featured three splendid performances. From Mozart's G Major Piano Trio K. 496, lines were spun as gold with the grace of the best humored dispositions and the delight of a fresh cloudless spring noon after a night's cleansing rain.
The ever-smiling pianist Inon Barnatan's pearly sound was almost ostentatious in its opulence, and Jun Iwasaki, violinist, was his every equal in their exchange, joyous as wee playing kittens in the Allegro. The development was dramatically participated in by all, but the cellist, Efe Baltacigil was the motor of the drama.
Mr. Baltacagil had glorious moments in the last movement, but this Allegretto: Theme and Variations was not always consistent in surprise. Nevertheless, this was a superb performance.
Stunning was Kodaly's Serenade for two violins and viola, played by Yura Lee, Karen Gomyo and Cynthia Phelps. These young wiccans, as gorgeously dressed as they were heeled, effortlessly exchanged the rôles of Goddess, Enchantress and Seductress. The Allegramente was marked by its earthy communication, and in the second movement, Ms. Lee's schizophrenic jabberings, foiled by Ms. Gomyo's exotic veiled atmosphere, became lunacy in the return and the three evaporated like steam at the end. The third had cackling (though wartless) crones flying on their folk brooms. How to play with such energy, yet be never manic or ugly? Ms. Gomyo in her solo turn here played with a mesmerizing vibrato. Fabulous, nothing less, describes the art of Cynthia Phelps.
Are they any superlatives left to describe this evening's conclusion, the Brahms A Major Piano Quartet? If the ensemble was an effulgent homogeneous whole, what was remarkable was the way each musician's unique voice gleamed out of the textures. Mr. Bax, returning to the stage, played with a sound of crème rolled unselfconsciously on the tongue, bracing the visionary cellist, Clive Greensmith; the tears elicited by Che-Yen Chen, violist; and the violinist Steven Rose, astounding for his direction. The magic began imperceptibly before the development of the Allegro non troppo; they sang like devout brothers. How could oscillating dyads be imbued with so many deep meanings from both Brahms and the performers? The slow movement had sonorities gentle and profound from the very first notes, with a recap so movingly touching; Mr. Bax with the most assured calmness giving the strings every latitude. If towards the end there was a phrase to dwell on the fragrance of a road-side flower, Mr. Greensmith gloriously shepherded his comrades on.
The Scherzo found the strings aligned like an astronomical singularity. The group's extraordinary pulse became ever more tumultuous without becoming roiling, a cataract that did not crush, did not scream. In the trio their sounds became even more specific, more clarion. This was grand. The Finale, like this review, had at last expended its capital, nevertheless, we lucky listeners are the richer for it.