Robert Schumann intended to craft an alternative version of his Cello Concerto, re-scoring it for cello and string quartet, but never got around to doing so. Composer Philip Lasser, with input from cellist Zuill Bailey and the Ying Quartet, has fulfilled Schumann’s wish, producing a freshly minted chamber reduction that Bailey and the Yings brought to the Jewish Community of Greater Washington in Rockville on Sunday.
Some listeners might have missed the evocative orchestral color of Schumann’s original score in this new version. But the sinuous, artfully dovetailed string-writing in Lasser’s arrangement — treating the cello soloist as a first among equals — paid handsome dividends. Bailey, exuberantly virtuosic in his showier solo lines, also proved himself a subtle team player, allowing the cello’s phrases to emerge organically from the ensemble fabric.
Bailey blended even more deeply into the group in a fascinating string-quintet arrangement of Beethoven’s “Kreutzer” Sonata for Violin and Piano. Both the violin and piano lines were, for the most part, democratically divided here among the strings. But enough solo violin material went to the Yings’ first violinist, Robin Scott, to show off his sweetly spun tone and formidable technique, particularly in the “andante con variazioni” movement.
The Yings were as electrifying in this challenging arrangement as they were sunny and elegant in Haydn’s String Quartet in F, Op. 77, No. 2, which opened this superb program.
Banno is a freelance writer.