The romance at the Renwick this weekend is not just a fling, it's the real thing. The Emerson Quartet has teamed up with clarinetist Loren Kitt in the crowded opulence of the Grand Salon for some very passionate music-making.
At the heart of the program is Brahms' Clarinet Quintet in B Minor, Op. 115. From the longing of the viola's first phrase this was a haunting performance. And if the tentative delicacy of the first movement was rushed, the adagio contained all the logic of a dream: It was a melodic wish fulfilled. With tense and always sensual phrasing, there was sustained joy in the third movement and a palpable, passionate beat in the final coda.
Wolf's Italian Serenade opened the concert. Alway from Reger's familiar arrangement, the Serenade retains all its southern rhythms with none of its Teutonic thickness. The ensemble surrendered its homogeneity here, but all the recitative favor of the piece was soaked in its rando structure, and the audience readily overlooked the evening's only pitch disagreements.
The program, which also includes Beethoven's String Quartet in F, Op. 59, will be repeated tonight and Sunday, evening at 7 o'clock at the Renwick.