top of page

The New Zealand Herald

String Quartets do not come any better than the Jerusalem

William Dart

A few bars into Smetana's From my Life Quartet, it was clear this was an event, the likes of which could not be equalled in Wigmore Hall or the Lincoln Centre. String quartets do not come any better than the Jerusalem.

The passionate playing of violist Amichai Grosz illuminated Smetana's first pages, leading to some stormy outbursts from the whole group, as the composer bared his soul. Seconds later, the four men melted into the major of the second subject theme, with a discreet flutter of rubato. The second movement was emphatically a polka, with a wittily lurching trio. There would be more rustic revels in the Finale, but not until the musicians took on the outer limits of expressivity in the great Largo.

Mark Kopytman's Cantus II is a powerfully hewn score and much of its effectiveness came from the sheer concentration of the four young men delivering it. Power-driven unisons fuelled myriad lines and colours and remarkably cohesive music was brilliantly communicated.

After interval, the four men made it clear Ravel's Quartet is indeed a supreme example of its art and genre. It stole upon us with glassy, translucent textures but the music soon swept us away with its very Gallic grace, incorporating one decrescendo so swift and sure it seemed to have taken place on a centime. The breathtaking moment came when Grosz and the energetic leader Alexander Pavolvsky shared duties in one of the composer's most rapturous melodies. The Scherzo was cast in long, generous phrases, its middle section anticipating the mercurial textures of the following movement. The Finale was dashed off with such joi de vivre that its final chord wowed with the thrill of it all.

An encore of the Notturno from Borodin's Second String Quartet reminded one that the quartet will play this work in Hamilton tonight, with Kopytman and Haydn. The opportunity to hear this superb ensemble in the WEL Energy Academy of Performing Arts is not to be assed up lightly.

October 6, 2008

bottom of page