A young friend recently asked how musicians form conceptions of works and how much creativity shapes performances. His request provided a framework to compare two recent recordings of Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht. The Emerson Quartet is joined by Paul Neubauer and Colin Carr in an album which includes Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence, and the young star Janine Jansen and her loyal, unknown friends pair the Schoenberg with the Schubert Cello Quintet.
In classical music you need notation and imagination. There are conductors and soloists whose hopefully thoughtful interpretations are unified by their perception. In chamber music, ostensibly among equals, the level of complexity among competing aesthetics, egos and accomplishments seldom render this treacherous idiom exhilarating.