The highly touted Emerson String Quartet, showered with awards of late, returns to town with an intriguing program that features the three Russian composers best known to the West. Prokofiev’s Quartet no. 2 and Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet in G Minor op. 57 were finished only months apart in 1940–at the dawn of the Soviet withdrawal from the international music community–but they’re decades apart in style. The Prokofiev piece, written about the same time as his great opera War and Peace, is a bold quasi-Bartokian experiment, with abundant wonderful effects drawn from folk songs of the Caucasus region, where the composer and his family had temporarily resettled during wartime. Shostakovich’s quintet, on the other hand, is a deft youthful exercise that engagingly juxtaposes keyboard and strings while casting, a fond farewell to the neoclassic idiom. Indeed, upon hearing it Prokofiev castigated his young rival for deliberately trying to please, for not taking risks. The evening’s third work is Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence, (for string sextet), the rapturous yet urbane musical remembrance of sensuous Italian sounds and the sun-kissed Mediterranean. The Emerson quartet’s collaborators are pianist Yefim Bronfman, violist Kim Kashkashian, and cellist Gary Hoffman, all prominent soloists and recent winners of prestigious citations. Monday, 8 PM, Blackstone Theatre, 60 E. Balbo; 242-6237 or 663-1628.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Werner Neumeister.