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Berlin Piano Quartet, Dumbarton Concerts

We welcome another review from Ionarts guest contributor Michael Lodico.

Saturday evening, the Berlin Piano Quartet offered an engaging evening of works by Schubert, Robert Schumann, and Mendelssohn at the Dumbarton Concert Series. The young quartet opened their program with the Schubert Sonatina in D Major, D. 384, which was originally written just for violin and piano. Violist Philip Douvier arranged the work nicely for string trio, and it was performed with a sense that the group had made it its own. At times this arrangement required cellist Bogdan Jianu to skillfully provide Alberti bass figures to approximate the left-hand part of the original piano score.

Chinese-born pianist Tao Lin joined in the demanding Piano Quartet in E-flat of Robert Schumann. The full potential of this piece may not have been realized because of the limitations of the piano used in Saturday’s performance. Lacking brilliance and depth over its entire range, despite Mr. Tao’s gallant efforts, the instrument mostly offered a muted muddle.

Other Reviews:

Joe Banno, Berlin Piano Quartet (Washington Post, February 26)
The Quartet approached this piece with a surplus of confidence that conveyed a powerful sense of command; even if this attitude left the actual music behind on occasion. Details were often played-through, leaving you wishing for the Quartet to linger more on the abundance of inspired material that Schumann provides. For example, throughout the program, except in the very quick Allegro molto or Allegro vivace movements, the violinist often played ahead of his colleagues by shortening rests or beginning a phrase early. The resulting sense of pull-and-drag was most noticeable in unison passages in the Scherzo, when the violin and viola were not together. The cellist and pianist, in contrast, were always well coordinated, creating a fine sense of ensemble. Hurrying through the beautiful sequence near the very end of the work did not enhance the sense of structure of the work.

Mr. Lin was most impressive in the Mendelssohn Piano Quartet in B Minor, where he tossed off devilish finger work with ease. Even though the instrument was not exactly responding to his vigor, energy, or precision, the audience could connect with his intent. Mr. Lin’s octaves in the final Allegro vivace were especially strong, and the group was generally more cohesive.

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