A Superb Opening for the String Quartet Season (bis!)


Schubert, Shostakovich: Belcea Quartet (Corina Belcea & Axel Schacher [violins], Krzysztof Chorzelski [viola], Antoine Lederlin [cello], Perelman Theater, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia, 17.10.2016. (BJ)

Schubert –String Quartet in E flat major D.87

Shostakovich – String Quartet No.8 Op.110

Schubert –String Quartet in G major D.887

If the headline looks familiar, that is because it simply repeats what I said about the Belcea Quartet’s Philadelphia Chamber Music Society concert exactly two years earlier. After this season’s return visit, I see no reason to modify my view that this now 22-year-old ensemble is one of the very finest in the present community of richly gifted string quartets.

The group’s playing is every bit as artistically perceptive and technically polished as it was before. Corina Belcea is a true leader, fearlessly uncompromising in her attack on the more forceful passages in the music at hand, sweetly lyrical in more intimate moments, and close to 100 per cent accurate in intonation. The control of intonation is, indeed, a central element in the Belceas’ quality: combined with an eloquent range of contrasting vibratos, it achieves a wonderfully polychromatic texture that reveals previously unsuspected facets even in music that one may think one already knew perfectly well.

The performance of Schubert’s E-flat-major String Quartet was a case in point. I’ve always admired it as a minor masterpiece, with a formal sophistication and poised charm remarkable in the work of a composer no older than 16. In the Belcea Quartet’s hands, the telling contributions of Messrs Schacher, Chorzelski, and Lederlin achieved a variety of color and texture that made the work seem by no means minor. From the rhythmically ingenious design of the opening theme onward, by way of the hurtling rapidity of the scherzo and the rapt musings of the Adagio, to the finely judged forward motion of the finale, every aspect of the young Schubert’s precocious mastery was cogently realized.

Shostakovich’s Eighth Quartet was done with a similar expressive command, the fierceness of the Allegro molto second movement thrillingly offsetting the brooding intensity of the rest of this profoundly introverted music. And then, after intermission, Schubert’s last and greatest string quartet received a performance of breathtaking boldness and depth, grippingly mysterious in the first movement’s tonal and textural explorations, and vividly conveying all the varied inspirations that follow, including the heart-easing warmth of the third movement’s trio section. As a generous encore, a movement from Shostakovich’s Third Quartet neatly completed the evening’s design.

Just as two years ago, I again regretted that these superb musicians are unconvinced about the importance of observing composer-mandated repeats. But superb they are nevertheless, and the evening under review set a high benchmark for the ensembles that will follow them during the season to measure up to.

Bernard Jacobson

Print Friendly


Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews


Season Previews

  • NEW! Opera and More in Buenos Aires in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Gloucester Choral Society’s Hubert Parry’s Centenary Celebrations in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Ex Cathedra at St John’s Smith Square’s 2017 Christmas Festival __________________________________
  • NEW! Spend a Penny for Grange Park Opera’s Lavatorium Rotundum __________________________________
  • NEW! Spitalfields Music Festival 2017 in December __________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! The 2018 Lucerne Summer Festival __________________________________
  • NEW! World Premiere of The Nutcracker and I, by Alexandra Dariescu in December at Milton Court __________________________________
  • NEW! Leeds Lieder’s Forthcoming Schubert Song Series in Leeds and Sheffield __________________________________
  • UPDATED! English National Ballet’s 2017 – 2018 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Contemporary Music from Manchester’s Psappha in 2017-18 __________________________________
  • NEW! I Musicanti’s ‘Alexandra and the Russians’ at St Johns Smith Square, 2017-18 __________________________________
  • NEW! Anna Netrebko and Yusif Eyvazov’s Return to London in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! St John’s Smith Square announces its 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Pierre Boulez Saal’s 2017/18 Season in Berlin __________________________________
  • UPDATED! The Glyndebourne Opera Cup and Glyndebourne in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

  • R.I.P. IN MEMORIAM – DMITRI HVOROSTOVSKY (1962-2017) __________________________________
  • NEW! Ann Murray’s Masterclass at the V&A Part of Opera: Passion, Power and Politics __________________________________
  • NEW! Carly Paoli is ‘Singing My Dreams’ at the Cadogan Hall in February 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! A Composer Speaks Up for the Environment: An Interview with Margaret Brouwer __________________________________
  • NEW! Twelve Years of Celebrating Malcolm Arnold in Northampton __________________________________
  • NEW! What is the Critic’s Job? A Review of A. O. Scott’s Recent Book __________________________________
  • NEW! English Music Festival in Yorkshire Lifts the Lid Off an English Treasury __________________________________
  • NEW! A FULLY STAGED PILGRIM’S PROGRESS IN ORLEANS, MA __________________________________
  • NEW! JIŘÍ BĔLOHLÁVEK (1946-2017) AND THE CZECH CONDUCTING LEGACY __________________________________
  • NEW! JUSTIN DOYLE DISCUSSES MONTEVERDI WITH MARK BERRY __________________________________
  • NEW! Katie Lowe Wins the 2017 Elizabeth Connell Prize __________________________________
  • NEW! ITINÉRAIRE BAROQUE 2017: TON KOOPMAN TALKS TO COLIN CLARKE __________________________________
  • NEW! The Royal Opera House in Mumbai is Restored to its Former Glory __________________________________
  • NEW! iSING! – International Young Artists Festival in Suzhou, China __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month

    Search S&H