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
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
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.