Isaac Stern, the beloved elder statesman of the violin, has been taking an admittedly well-deserved rest on his laurels lately–he often seems only partly engaged in performances, and he’s been known to wander shockingly off-pitch. Yet when Stern is inspired, he can still show us what virtuosity really means, and his zeal for music education and the promotion of budding instrumentalists is unwaning. These days, chamber music seems to be the arena in which he derives the most creative satisfaction from collaborating with younger musicians. One of those whose careers he’s helped to shape is pianist Yefim Bronfman; their May-December partnership has resulted in a recording of Brahms’s violin sonatas as well as an ongoing project to record all of Mozart’s (both on Sony Classical). It was Bronfman who suggested that the duo get together with cellist Lynn Harrell and violinist Philip Setzer and violist Lawrence Dutton of the Emerson Quartet for this leadoff recital in Orchestra Hall’s new Virtuoso Chamber Ensemble series. All five wanted a go at Schumann’s Piano Quintet in E-flat–one of the crown jewels of the chamber literature–though each was already familiar with it through readings with other partners. If they click–and chances are excellent they will–their Schumann could be extraordinary indeed. The rest of the program is no slouch either; Bronfman is featured importantly in Prokofiev’s speedy Sonata no. 1 for Violin and Piano (in a duet with Stern) and in another idiosyncratic Schumann, Fantasy Pieces for cello and piano. Sunday, 7:30 PM, Orchestra Hall, 220 S. Michigan; 312-294-3000.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo of Stern by Henry Grossman.