The Sequoia String Quartet & Friends season at the Japan America Theatre ended triumphantly-- and somewhat sadly--on Sunday afternoon. The triumph was one of performing style over musical content: a magnificent reading of Elgar's bloated A-minor Piano Quintet.
It was hardly coincidental that the Sequoians' collaborator in Elgar was the most steadfast of its "friends," pianist Richard Goode, whose presence over the years has consistently brought out the best in the ensemble.
And Goode himself thundered and sang at the keyboard as if the glutinous Elgarian mix of Brahms and something vaguely out of the Franckian chromatic bag were the highest of art, which perhaps the work is for a few moments in the broadly lyrical central movement.
Goode's string-playing collaborators--violinists Peter Marsh and Miwako Watanabe, violist James Dunham, cellist Bonnie Hampton--provided playing that was lushly sonorous, technically of the highest order and as passionately intense as that of their inspired soloist.