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Blissful Mozart at MFA's Remis

BOSTON MUSEUM TRIO

With Laura Blustein, cello.

Remis Auditorium,

Museum of Fine Arts, April 30.

By JONATHAN RICHMOND

OSTON OFFERS few more civilized experiences than a Sunday afternoon at the Museum of Fine Arts. Arrive early, and wander around a few galleries, then head for Remis Auditorium for high-class music-making.

Last Sunday, MFA regulars John Gibbons, Daniel Stepner and Laura Jeppesen (who make up the Boston Museum Trio) were joined by Laura Blustein for a blissful afternoon of Mozart chamber works. Gibbons began by playing Mozart's Piano Sonata in C, K. 545 on a bright-sounding fortepiano by Ronald Smith of Somerville, modeled after a 1796 piano of Johann Jacob K"onnicke.

His touch was wonderfully light, and he teased every morsel of good humor out of the opening and closing movements in a performance that gave great pleasure. The slow movement, in contrast, had a feeling of gentle rhapsody, with a particularly telling moment on a shift to the minor.

The piano had a striking presence because of its crisp tone, and a lack of resonance which enabled every note to be clearly heard. But, despite his performance on an "authentic" instrument, Gibbons' approach to all the works on the program was romantic. With his ability to sensitively highlight emotional peaks, yet present each work as a coherent entity through careful phrasing, it seemed quite apt.

Daniel Stepner joined Gibbons for the Sonata for Piano and Violin in E-flat, K. 302 (293b). Stepner took a very active, forward role, but produced a sweet tone and was well-complemented by Gibbons' alert but expressive way with the fortepiano.

The Trio for Piano, Violin and Cello was done nicely too, with some nimble cello playing by Laura Blustein helping along the flowing quality of the performance. Stepner's playing was on a virtuoso level, but not aggressively so, and it blended well with the sounds of the other performers.

The Larghetto was given a lovely piano opening -- simply played, yet expressive -- and was met with a violin tone which sang sadly, yet without extraneous vibrato. The buoyant concluding movement was a pure delight.

After the intermission, Gibbons gave a happy account of the Rondo for Piano in D, K. 485. The program ended with the Piano Quartet, K. 478. The performance was well balanced, with a fine sense of chamber ensemble, yet with significant contributions from each member of the quartet as individuals. There were touching elements to Gibbons' piano playing in the Andante, and an endearing brief heartbeat effect in Blustein's cello playing here.

There was beautiful violin playing from Stepner, and a rich, but not sugary viola tone from Laura Jeppesen. The concluding Rondo: Allegro was done with much gusto, making for a chirpy and uplifting ending to the concert.