Emerson Quartet and David Shifrin join forces for successful evening of Mozart

Sat Jul 03, 2010 at 9:09 am

By Paul Wooley

The Emerson String Quartet’s Mozart program proved an alluring draw for Ravinia patrons on Friday night.  The Martin Theatre was at near capacity and the lawn was filled with an unusually high number of people for a weekend chamber concert.  Violinists Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer, violist Lawrence Dutton, and cellist David Finckel brought along clarinetist David Shifrin to perform selections from Mozart’s middle and late periods.  They didn’t disappoint.

Mozart’s string arrangements of fugues from Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier opened the evening, followed by his String Quartet in C Major.  The five fugues on Bach’s theme proved a fine warm-up for the Emerson and the audience, while the K.465 quartet that followed showed the cohesion, synergy, and sensitivity for which the group has become renowned.  Of particular note was Drucker, who took over first violin duties after intermission and seemed to draw the most inspiration from his colleagues.

David Shifrin

The elegance of the Emerson’s playing during the first half of the evening gave way to the show-stealing performance of clarinetist David Shifrin in Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet.  Shifrin, who was making his Ravinia debut, displayed deft fingering in the first movement and a remarkably even legato during the Larghetto.  The clarinetist showed wonderful control over balancing and dynamics, holding back with subdued ease when necessary and picking the right moments to take the spotlight.  Shifrin’s successful debut combined with another solid performance from the Emerson, earning the five men a warm ovation from the audience at the end of the night.

The Emerson chose to stay with their style of standing during their concerts, which works quite effectively.  The distinct playing styles of the musicians becomes even more apparent as they feed off each other’s energy, giving them more freedom of motion.  Shifrin did the same in the Clarinet Quintet throwing off such a loose, relaxed energy that one would have thought him a jazz clarinetist simply by watching him play.

Paul Wooley is a native Texan who now makes his home on the north side.  He enjoys tennis, chess, Kant, and Ives.

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