San Diego Story
Ken Herman
August 24, 2018

La Jolla SummerFest called Wednesday’s concert “An Evening with Emanuel Ax.” But it was much better than that. It turned out to be an evening with Emanuel Ax and friends. The former would have been undoubtedly rewarding, but the latter proved spectacular.

In Mozart’s “Kegelstatt” Trio with clarinetist John Bruce Yeh and violist Che-Yen Chen and in Antonín Dvo?ák’s nonpareil Piano Quintet in A Major, Op. 81, with Cho-Liang Lin, Anna Lee, and the Hoffman brothers, Ax gently spurred his colleagues to empyrean heights.

Some describe Mozart’s delightfully unusual piano trio—the standard instrumention is piano, violin, and cello—as charming, but these performers made it sublime. Yeh and Chen played in standing position, which not only strengthened their voices to that of the concert grand, but seemed to allow the composer’s fluid lines to dance. Indeed, Yeh’s tall frame swayed gently, mirroring Mozart’s balletic phrases, even as he garbed them in his superbly polished, silvery sonority, seamless from burnished bass notes to translucent treble tones.