Delightful Sextets from the Jerusalem Quartet and Friends

22/10/2018

CanadaCanada R. Strauss, Schoenberg, Tchaikovsky: The Jerusalem String Quartet [Alexander Pavlovsky and Sergei Bresler (violins), Ori Kam (viola), Kyril Zlotnikov (cello)], Pinchas Zukerman (viola), Amanda Forsyth (cello), Chan Centre, Vancouver, 14.10.2018. (GN)

Jerusalem String Quartet © Felix Brode

R. Strauss – String Sextet from Capriccio

SchoenbergVerklärte Nacht Op.4

Tchaikovsky – String Sextet in D minor Op.70 ‘Souvenir de Florence’

It’s rare to have a full concert of string sextets, and it is rare indeed to find playing as beautiful as that provided by the Jerusalem Quartet and their two exalted collaborators, violist Pinchas Zukerman and cellist Amanda Forsyth. Warmth and feeling flowed everywhere in this concert, starting from Richard Strauss’s lovely sextet from Capriccio and ending with the energy and romantic ardour of Tchaikovsky’s late sextet, ‘Souvenir de Florence’. In between was Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht, also painted in luxuriant colours, though here some sharper, more distilled contours might not have been out of place. It was a particular joy to see the Jerusalem Quartet in full splendour: the Vancouver Recital Society sponsored the ensemble literally from its birth-pangs two decades ago.

Few pieces of theatre music rival the beauty and refinement of the sextet from Capriccio. It is played offstage at the beginning of the opera, as a prelude to a grand debate over the merits of music vs. poetry as the supreme art form. Clearly the discussion cannot be neutral when such enticing music is already playing – and its presence could hardly fail to persuade us too, especially when performed with as much sensitivity and eloquence as it was here. The feeling and shape in Alexander Pavlovsky’s violin lines established a captivating lyrical flow and sense of yearning from the outset. And the Straussian shadings just kept coming. The ensemble cohered as one mind, showing splendid control over dynamics and creating an integrated glow over the work’s 13-minute length.

The same Straussian radiance infused Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht, which was given broad romantic treatment with great involvement and sensitivity. The approach was almost Mediterranean in feeling, ripe and luxuriant. I was consumed by the beauty of this playing and its sureness of line, but could not help but ponder whether it was too warm and comfortable for a work based on Dehmel’s poem, which begins with estranged lovers walking in moonlight in a ‘bare, cold grove’. I have always thought the virtue of this sextet version of the work (which received its recorded premiere from the Hollywood String Quartet in 1950) is that it allowed greater intimacy than the orchestral version, permitting more of the raw, equivocal feelings and sharp edges in the poem to be probed. This would prompt a distilled foreboding and restlessness in the early part of the work (with full cutting intensity in the tremolos), allowing the warm, redemptive viola/cello outpouring later on to have the strongest emotional force. Here this evolution seemed to be an extension of the warmth already established, rather than a key transition point. The sense of flow and unfolding in the current approach, and its larger scale, made it closer to the orchestral version, and I could not help but think of some parallel to Strauss’s Metamorphosen. But very enjoyable and beautiful on its own terms.

Greater virtuosity came into play in Tchaikovsky’s ‘Souvenir de Florence’, bounding forth with spring-like energy while always finding allusions to the elegance and caprice of the Russian Imperial Court. The opening allegro had a wonderfully confident swing to it, tossing any of its turgidity to the winds, and cultivated a beguiling sweet songfulness before finishing with a burst of real frisson. I must remark on how well the rhythmic complexities of this movement were handled. The Adagio started from grace and elegance, with telling contributions from Pavlovsky and Amanda Forsyth, moving into its passion with conviction. The Allegretto mixed gorgeous unison playing with enticing playfulness. A Dvořákian gait was established in the finale, with enviable rhythmic spring, and full of all the right type of bucolic delight and lyricism. It ended in a flourish of glory.

A major inspiration of this concert was hearing the ensemble’s magnificent sound: violinist Alexander Pavlovsky’s strong, clean and sweet projection, always anchoring the lyrical line so convincingly; his tonal integration with partner Sergei Bresler; the beautifully precise, open projection of cellist Kyril Zlotnikov, complementing the tight, sculpted lines of Amanda Forsyth; and the two gorgeous violas, the tonal resonance and beautifully turned execution of Ori Kam meshing distinctively with the sharper pungency of Pinchas Zukerman.

The encore was a transcription from a Lensky aria in Eugene Onegin – eloquent, sensual, with just the right hint of caprice to send everyone off in the finest of spirits.

Geoffrey Newman

Previously published in a slightly different form on http://www.vanclassicalmusic.com.

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! BBC Proms turns 125 years old – 17 July to 12 September 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera North in 2020-2021 – postponements and plans __________________________________
  • NEW! Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Glyndebourne Festival Opera opens for a 2020 summer season __________________________________
  • NEW! Baritone Federico Longhi’s Rigoletto is part of Parma’s June Verdian renaissance __________________________________
  • NEW! 69th Wexford Festival Opera – 11 to 18 October 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Dresden’s Semperoper reopens with Anna Netrebko on 19 June __________________________________
  • NEW! Berlin’s Pierre Boulez Saal in 2020-21 __________________________________
  • NEW! LMP’s first UK chamber orchestra performances since Covid-19 struck __________________________________
  • NEW! Oxford Lieder Festival – 10-17 October 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Metropolitan Opera (2020–)2021 season update __________________________________
  • NEW! Royal Opera House announces first live concert since beginning of lockdown __________________________________
  • NEW! Semi-staged Das Rheingold on Deutsche Oper Berlin’s parking deck from 12 June __________________________________
  • NEW! A breath of fresh air: Opera Holland Park announces 2021 season __________________________________
  • NEW! Grange Park Opera’s 2020 Found Season – 4 June to 12 July __________________________________
  • UPDATED! 2020 Salzburg Festival – 1 to 30 August __________________________________
  • NEW! English Music Festival’s 2020 online series of concerts and talks __________________________________
  • The Singapore Symphony in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • Musikfest Berlin 2020 __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Free Review Summary Newsletter

    Search S&H

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! We’ll be back! The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra weathering the Covid-19 storm __________________________________
  • NEW! World Ballet School Day – inaugural edition 7 July 2020 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Longborough Festival Opera launches podcast and extraordinary generosity of the audience __________________________________
  • NEW! The Music Critics Association of North America Best New Opera Award to Blue __________________________________
  • NEW! Lincoln Center honors Pride with a light installation on its iconic plaza __________________________________
  • R.I.P. Dame Vera Lynn (1917-2020): Did we really need Vera Lynn during the war? __________________________________
  • NEW! What price Sherlock Holmes? __________________________________
  • NEW! BBC to show the ROH’s first post-lockdown performance and their other recent music news __________________________________
  • NEW! Woody Allen comes back fighting with a book and A Rainy Day in New York __________________________________
  • NEW! Educating Rita, says who? __________________________________
  • NEW! 2020 Three Choirs Festival – postponed __________________________________
  • NEW! ACCOMPANIST OR PARTNER? PIANIST SUSIE ALLAN IN CONVERSATION WITH JOHN QUINN __________________________________
  • NEW! Need to escape reality? Enter into the magical world of composer David Hertzberg __________________________________
  • NEW! BTHVN2020 – Beethoven anniversary goes into overtime __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month