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Otago Daily Times

Quartet delivers top performance

By Anthony Ritchie

Seat prices may have been high for the Jerusalem Quartet in the Glenroy Auditorium but it was worth every dollar to hear such a superb group.

There were moments in Saturday night's concert when the four strings played as one. There was extraordinary precision in the finale of the Haydn 'Bird' quartet where rapid runs were tossed off with seeming ease. There was real and deep understanding of rubato in the Borodin second quartet especially in the beautiful Nocturne, which was a highlight of the concert.

And then there were the challenges presented in Cantus II by Israeli composer Mark Kopytman, written in 1980 as a trio, and recomposed as a quartet in 2003. Starting with a powerful unison theme the lines then diverge subtly into layers of sounds. The players coordinated this effect magically. In a piece that has strong resonances of Eastern Europe, there was a sense of the unpredictable but at no time did the piece feel loose. There were also nice touches of folk music, such as the frenetic viola solo over the top of plucked notes. Special effects on the instruments were integrated into the piece in a meaningful way. This was a cutting-edge work, but one that also engaged the good-sized audience.

The concert opened with the Haydn, and the start was the only time I had reservations about the playing. It took a little time for the tempo to settle, and for the players to coordinate properly. Once they had settled the quartet gave a characterful and stylish performance.

The blend of the players sound is terrific and yet there is still room for the soloistic and their interpretation is never boring. This carried over into the Borodin which had richness and warmth in the playing. There is a physicality about the group's playing which is a delight to watch, and this was particularly evident in the waltz from the second movement.

The players had to work hard on their intonation in the last movement, under those hot Glenroy Auditorium lights, but they succeeded in bringing the concert to an exuberant close.

October 6, 2008

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