Jerusalem Quartet at Wigmore Hall – Janáček’s Kreutzer Sonata, Bartok 4, Ravel

String Quartet No.1 (Kreutzer Sonata)
String Quartet No.4
String Quartet in F

Jerusalem Quartet [Alexander Pavlovsky & Sergei Bresler (violins), Ori Kam (viola) & Kyril Zlotnikov (cello)]

Reviewed by: Kenneth Carter

Reviewed: 18 June, 2016
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Jerusalem QuartetPhotograph: Felix BroedeThe Jerusalem is one of the great string-quartet ensembles, currently celebrating its 20th-anniversary.

Janáček’s ‘Kreutzer Sonata’ immediately showed the musicians’ strengths. They projected vigour and rhythmic cohesion, playing as one. In every feature of their phrasing there was meticulous attentiveness. Janáček carried a notebook in which he wrote down the speech rhythms and melodies of people he met in the streets and when on a long walk. What the Jerusalem Quartet brought out with particular clarity was the tone of those different voices – urgent and excitable, sensitive and halting, sympathetic and flowing, brusque and unyielding… Performances of this music can sound jerky and shrill. This Jerusalem version made absolute sense of the score – growing ever-moving as the depiction of Tolstoy’s tale progressed … a gem of an interpretation.

The performance of the Bartók was no less excellent. His Fourth String Quartet has an elegantly-conceived five-movement form coupled with, for the most part, a strident, abrasive harshness. Its slow centrepiece has melody and sensitivity – cellist Kyril Zlotnikov was wonderfully articulate while merging into the diamond-like stillness of an example of Bartók’s ‘night music’ – flanked by two faster movements, the second excelling in pizzicato. This was a very distinguished account of demanding music.

We finished with Ravel’s sole String Quartet, a masterpiece. I noted the players’ attention to detail and to structure, and also how idiomatically ‘French’ it sounded, the musicians reaching out to Ravel’s crystalline stylishness and aristocratic poise, and also uncovering his (not overt) strength of purpose and depth. This reading, driven by intelligence and fine-tuned sensitivity, was absolutely spot-on.

Make no mistake, the Jerusalem Quartet is one of the great ensembles.

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