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Schumann, Schubert: Julia Fischer, violin; Yefim Bronfman, piano; Luis Baez, clarinet; Yun Jie Liu, viola; Peter Wyrick, cello; Scott Pingel, bass. Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco, 7.6.2009 (HS)

After a week of juxtaposing Schubert with Berg, seeking out the serious side of the 19th century Romantic composer, Sunday evening brought a relaxing chamber music concert that featured two of Schubert’s happier works along with an easy-to-like piece by Schumann.

Any program with the “Trout” Piano Quintet on it will be a crowd pleaser. Populate the stage with musicians the caliber of violinist Julia Fischer, pianist Yefim Bronfman and three principals from the San Francisco Symphony, and it should be a can’t-miss affair. And it was. The concert was presented under the auspices of the orchestra as part of its Great Performers series.

The “Trout” was an easy catch, a smile-inducing romp. Credit Fischer, who is a no-nonsense leader in chamber music and never seems to miss a note, and Bronfman, who channeled his formidable technique into a crystalline, mostly delicate performance, for setting the tone. Even a wayward breeze from somewhere—an overactive air conditioner?—that kept flipping over Fischer’s music could not faze her. She just pushed it back into place with the scroll of her fiddle, smiling all the while and drawing chuckles from the audience.

My only quibble with the “Trout” was with bassist Scott Pingel, who seemed to be playing sharp for a good part of the first two movements. Once he got calibrated, the rest was golden. Violist Yun Jie Liu, the acting principal violist, and Peter Wyrick, the co-principal cellist, contributed clear, deftly articulated work.

The less familiar music on the first half of the program included a tasty opening number, Schumann’s Fantasiestücke for Clarinet and Piano, featuring the orchestra’s principal clarinet, Luis Baez, with Bronfman. Both played with admirable precision and flair, but Baez never quite got the hushed, creamy pianissimo that the best clarinetists can achieve.

The delight of the evening involved just Fischer and Bronfman, who jumped joyfully and easily into Schubert’s Violin Sonata in A minor. It’s a work as sunny as the “Trout,” and what a pleasure to hear these two impeccable musicians sail through it. It was invigorating.

Harvey Steiman

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