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The Independent Weekly

This really is exceptional musicianship.


The Jerusalem Quartet has won many fans in Australia during its residency with Musica Viva and it's easy to see why. These four young men - Alexander Pavlovsky and Sergei Bresler on violin, Amichai Grosz on viola and Kyril Zlotnikov on cello - have been playing together for almost half their lives.

Originally students at the Jerusalem Music Centre, Zlotnikov says their formation was "a happy mistake" of convenience rather than a great coming together of musical minds. Fourteen years on, contemporary chamber music is in a better place for that happy mistake. The players are protégés of Daniel Barenboim and Zlotnikov plays Jacqueline du Pré's cello, on loan from Barenboim.

This program featured the work of Maurice Ravel, Bedrich Smetana and Australian composer Richard Mills. It opened with Smetana's magnificent String Quartet no. 1 in E minor, also known as "From My Life". The work was composed in 1876 and is autobiographical in nature, with each movement featuring a different stage in the Czech composer's life. The second movement a la Polka is an unmistakably toe-tapping homage to the conductor as a young man when he was known as "a passionate dancer". Passion is also evident in the slower third movement, written in A flat major, the key of romantic devotion.

Richard Mills's new string quartet, his third, commissioned by Julian Burnside for Musica Viva, is enjoying its world premiere performances on this tour. The Jerusalem Quartet gave a resounding performance of this work which sometimes seemed to lack depth. Described as "an essay in modalities", there were moments of great musicality that just faded away, feeling unresolved.

The program closed with Ravel's highly celebrated String Quartet in F major op 34. This work follows a strict classical structure in four movements and was written in 1902-03. Compared to the overt passion of the Smetana, the Ravel is all elegance and refinement giving each player a wonderful opportunity to display his precision and discipline.

It is a joy to see and hear the Jerusalem Quartet. The chemistry between the players is evident and they clearly glow with the delight of making music together. This really is exceptional musicianship.

October 20, 2008

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