String Quartet No.6 in G, Op.101
String Quartet in B flat, Op.18/6
String Quartet No.8 in C minor, Op.110
[Alexander Pavlovsky & Sergei Bresler (violins), Amihai Grosz (viola) & Kyril Zlotnikov (cello)]
Reviewed by: William Yeoman
Reviewed: 16 March, 2006
Venue: Perth Concert Hall, Western Australia
The Jerusalem Quartet is no stranger to Australian audiences; this is the musicians’ third tour for Musica Viva and are also that organisation’s Quartet in Residence for 2006-2009.Performances were uniformly excellent. Shostakovich’s Quartet No.6 (its blending of classical and contemporary elements providing the point from which the languages of the two subsequent works diverged) positively shimmered through a filter of immaculate ensemble and intonation. The Allegretto’s slide from the poise of its opening was intense; the incisive playing of Alexander Pavlovsky in the second movement and cellist Kyril Zlotnikov (playing Jacqueline du Pré’s last instrument on loan from Daniel Barenboim) in the third kept the momentum rushing towards the multi-sectional finale before the calm of the last luminous chord.
The Beethoven was imbued with such energy and abandon that you were left thinking the previous work was just a playing-in of the instruments (not that it ever, at any point, sounded like that!). Here, the Jerusalem showed Beethoven as Janus, the classicist and revolutionary all in one, by demonstrating how real freedom can only come from discipline. Like the music, the performance was marked by tight control of all elements and punctuated by exciting gestures and moments of real pathos (the final ‘La Malincolia’ being one such). Again, the sense of communication among the musicians was admirable – lots of eye contact and facial expressions.
Following the interval came Shostakovich’s Quartet No.8, a work which the Jerusalem has being playing together since its student days. And it showed. So integrated and beautifully eloquent was this performance that I couldn’t believe twenty minutes had passed. Everything I’ve said about the playing of the two previous works was true here – but what was now even more obvious was the ability of each musician to characterise his own part while integrating it seamlessly into the whole. Such was the intensity of this performance that the audience, like the Jerusalems, were visibly affected both during and after. A fitting tribute to Shostakovich in his 100th birthday year.