All-star chamber trio Emanuel Ax, Leonidas Kavakos, and Yo-Yo Ma tackle Johannes Brahams’s three piano trios | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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All-star chamber trio Emanuel Ax, Leonidas Kavakos, and Yo-Yo Ma tackle Johannes Brahams’s three piano trios

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It’s natural that stellar classical musicians are drawn to one another for collaboration; when virtuosity and sensitivity are common currency, the focus can be solely on playing the shit out of a chosen repertoire. The mutual admiration of pianist Emanuel Ax and cellist Yo-Yo Ma goes back nearly five decades, but while performing together at Tanglewood, the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer home in western Massachusetts, a few years ago, they invited a slightly junior colleague to join them. At age 50, Greek violinist Leonidas Kavakos is no slouch, but he lacks some of the international fame of his two cohorts. In their debut performance together they played Johannes Brahms’s Piano Trio no. 1 in B Major; the rapport between them was such that in the summer of 2014 they reconvened to play all three Brahms piano trios—which they finally recorded last year for a finely tuned set on Sony Classical. They inhabit the material with a thrilling yet graceful dynamism across the romantic flourishes of the Trio no. 2 in C Major and the full-blooded drama of the Trio no. 3 in C Minor. Brahms composed these pieces between 1854 and 1890, when he premiered a substantially revised version of his first trio; this group performs that later version. Ax, Ma, and Kavakos have joined forces again for a short U.S. tour where they’ll play all three pieces.   v

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