Jerusalem String Quartet

String Quartet in F, Op.18/1
String Quartet, Op.11
String Quartet in A minor, Op.51/2

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

Reviewed by: Rob Pennock

Reviewed: 21 March, 2007
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

The Jerusalem Quartet is establishing an international reputation, the Wigmore Hall was packed, and having moved from EMI to Harmonia Mundi the group’s discography will presumably grow apace.The ensemble’s sound is small and very sweet; the first movement of the Beethoven was relaxed, with little sense of drama in the development or conversation between the instruments. There was also a pronounced lack of sforzando and staccato playing that further deadened the sound. Intonation was far from perfect at the start of the Adagio and the tempo was too fast, while the scherzo lacked any sense of fun. The finale was underpowered.

Perhaps the most memorable part of the evening came before the start of the Beethoven slow movement, when the rear of the Hall became Piccadilly Circus at rush-hour, large numbers of late-comers being first ushered in and then two people ushered out again because their allotted seats were in the centre of an aisle. Perhaps some concert halls would like to reconsider their late-admissions policy, so as to stop performances being disrupted in such an unacceptable fashion? As if to add insult to injury, during the interval there was only one nervous and inexperienced barman on duty in the Bechstein Room: and a very, very long queue.

Samuel Barber’s String Quartet is famous because its slow movement became the Adagio for Strings, but the rest of it is pretty unmemorable and the Jerusalem’s overly cultivated tone didn’t help matters. Even the anguished climax of the adagio brought little true emotion and intensity.

Things didn’t improve in the Brahms. There was smooth and moulded phrasing, but while each of the first-movement climaxes brought weight and power, it was all too safe. The slow movement was fluid and silky, but there was no sense of drama in the forte outbursts and a lack of inner tension. At its start the minuet was a little too slow, but the night-music element of this extraordinary movement was very well conveyed. Somewhat predictably the last movement lacked attack and power.

The slow movement of Haydn’s Opus 20/Number 5 provided an encore during which the intonation was awry and there was little sense of genuine feeling.

The only word I can use for the entire evening is ‘pleasant’. Music-making should be far more than that!

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