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Not everyone can upstage the most formidably famous composer in the Western canon, but not everyone is Russell Sherman. On Sunday, for the final concert of Emmanuel Music’s four-year-long survey of Beethoven’s chamber music, the pianist made his first appearance since breaking his hip last September, and his return became the concert’s cynosure. Sherman also turned 84 last week; that, too, was acknowledged, with a “Happy Birthday” serenade from the audience (which included more than a few fellow pianists) and cupcakes at intermission.
Sherman was joined by violinist Gabriela Diaz and cellist Rafael Popper-Keizer, two of the city’s most valuable players. Diaz and Popper-Keizer — whose versatility encompasses no small amount of new-music experience — know how to make even the most radical score sound elegant and musical; Sherman has always had a penchant for making the most hidebound repertoire sound freshly radical.