String Quartet in D minor, K421
String Quartet in G minor
Jerusalem Quartet [Alexander Pavlovsky & Sergei Bresler (violins), Ori Kam (viola) & Kyril Zlotnikov (cello)]
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: 21 November, 2011
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
The Jerusalem Quartet’s approach to what is in effect Mozart’s ‘serioso’ string quartet made for a high voltage opener to this BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert. The opening Allegro was full-bodied, the sound rich but rarely cloying, the phrases urgently delivered. This proved a feature of the faster movements, though there was room for lighter playing both in the Andante and later in the first movement, where the ‘call and response’ between Alexander Pavlovsky and Sergei Bresler was particularly well done. In the Minuet, the unusual yodelling theme of the Trio stood out in, with the musicians subjecting it to copious rubato. The approach worked, suiting the sweet tone of the violin and giving the whole passage a sense of freedom, with Pavlovsky and Ori Kam securing a burnished tone for the soft unison reprise. This alternated nicely with the more rigorously structured Minuet itself and the finale’s Variations.
The string quartets of Debussy and Ravel are now such a common feature of recitals that they need extremely good performances to stick in the memory. This was one such occasion, the Jerusalem Quartet vigorous in its approach but also extremely detailed, bringing out all the counter-melodies that make this work such an involving listen. Through careful manipulation of textures the musicians produced a broad range of colours, while the tutti passages approached an orchestral scale in their volume and depth. There were some lovely tremolo effects in the first movement, very soft playing in the third-movement Andantino and brisk percussive pizzicatos in the preceding ‘Assez vif et bien rythmé’, which hung on relentlessly to the seven-note motif and refused to part with it. In this movement and finale’s fast music there could have been more humour, the furtive glances of the latter kept under wraps, but this was a relatively small issue given the players secured a performance of flair and dexterity.