Ensemble Music opens season with Jerusalem Quartet

The Jerusalem Quartet

Just as the symphony has been the premiere form for absolute

orchestral music, the string quartet has dominated chamber music, both forms

having sprung to life in the Classical era of the 18th century (Haydn having a

lot do with both).   A

fully crowded Indiana History Center's Basile Theater hosted

three repertoire quartets, played by the Jerusalem Quartet, making its Indianapolis

debut.  One

string quartet each by Beethoven, Ravel and Brahms respectively comprised their


First violinist Alexander Pavlovsky, second violinist Sergei

Bresler, violist Ori Kam and cellist Kyril Zlotnikov began their program with

Beethoven's Quartet No. 5 in

A, the fifth of the Bonn master's six first quartets, all published as Op. 18.   It was probably no

accident that this work was patterned after Mozart's fifth of the six quartets

he had dedicated to Haydn, also in A, K. 464, written 13 years earlier.

Though the Jerusalem

played well together dynamically, that sense of ensemble was missing,

especially at first when Pavlovsky's vibrato was nervously fast as compared

with his cohorts.   Pavlovsky

blended better in the second movement (a "menuetto"), though the ensemble

continued to lack perfection in that category.  In the ensuing "Theme and Variations"

movement, the group's sustained notes failed to blend into a cohesive, single,

"super" instrument (an ideal which very few visiting quartets achieve).  The Finale, an

"Allegro" saw the group improve their ensemble blend.  Perhaps they had "warmed up."

Ravel's only string quartet, that in F (1903), provided an

idiom showcasing the Jerusalem group at their best, and offered us the high point

of the evening.  They

at once seemed to gel with those pastel harmonies underlaying Ravel's

impressionistic lines. 

Zlotnikov' cello work especially shone in the dour third

movement, marked "Très lent," where he had an expansive solo.  The group managed the many complex

metrical shifts in the fourth movement with ease and aplomb.

Brahms' three quartets do not constitute his best chamber

music, as exemplified by his No. 2 in

A Minor, Op. 51 No. 2. 

As with most works Brahms released for publication, this one

excels in craftsmanship -- but lags in inspiration.  Lasting a good half hour, it lacks

arresting thematic material that engages one in the guts; the writing seems

excessively discursive throughout.  Yes, it has its piquant moments, but

they don't last long enough before we are back into discursion.

For those who better respond to this work, the Jerusalem

Quartet gave it their best, and that best was good indeed.  Oct.

15; Indiana History Center


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