Renewed and Reinvigorated: Juilliard String Quartet Delight in Beethoven, Bartók, and Dvořák

18/01/2019

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Beethoven, Bartók and Dvořák: Juilliard String Quartet, (Areta Zhulla and Ronald Copes [violins], Roger Tapping [viola], Astrid Schween [cello]), Wigmore Hall, London 15.1.2019. (CSa)

Juilliard String Quartet (c) Claudio Papapietro

Beethoven – String Quartet in D Op.18 No.3

Bartòk – String Quartet No.3

Dvořák – String Quartet in C Op.61 No.11

Although Beethoven and Bartók dominated the first half of this recital by the pre-eminent Juilliard Quartet, one suspects that it was Brexit and the impending House of Commons vote on Mrs May’s doomed deal that overshadowed it. This could have been one of the reasons for the unexpectedly high number of empty seats for a concert that otherwise would have easily filled any other European venue. A further factor could have been a reaction to change by Wigmore Hall’s traditional base – knowledgeable but famously risk averse. The change in question has been to the Juilliard’s composition in recent years – described rather unkindly by some critics as a veritable game of musical chairs. Founded in 1946, and based in New York City, the Quartet is one of the USA’s oldest and most esteemed. Departures and arrivals within the group over such a lengthy period have inevitably affected its character and style but have also served to energise and renew. In the last five years, though, turnover has been more rapid. In 2013 Roger Tapping, formerly the violist in the Takàcs Quartet, replaced Samuel Rhodes. In 2016, cellist Astrid Schween took the place of Joel Krosnick following his retirement, and last September Areta Zhulla took over from Joseph Lin as the group’s principal violin. Judging by the calibre of this concert, these comings and goings have had absolutely no impact on the outstanding quality of the Quartet’s music-making.

In a delightfully fresh and richly sonorous account of Beethoven’s String Quartet in D Op.18 No.3 – the first he ever wrote – the players injected just the right element of playfulness in the opening Allegro. The wistful Andante con moto was taken at perfect speed and contained passages of great serenity, contrasting perfectly with the joyfully brisk canter of the third movement Allegro. Fizzing with energy, the final Presto was a particular pleasure, and would surely have brought a smile to the lips of Beethoven’s teacher and mentor Haydn, whose influence so characterises this early work.

The dark complexity of Bartók’s String Quartet No.3 was fully realised. Although clearly divided into four parts, the work is played without a break, the players making light of its technical challenges. Severe and modernist in style, Bartók injects into the first part some dazzlingly colourful passages along with moments of utter desolation. These alternating changes in texture and rhythm were beautifully captured by some fine ensemble playing, as were the fragments of Hungarian folk melodies and the earthy rustic dance in the second part.

A ravishing account of Dvořák’s String Quartet in C completed the Juilliard’s pre-Brexit musical tour around central Europe. The gentle rocking motion of the opening Allegro and the honeyed second movement marked Poco adagio offered a degree of comfort after the rigours of Bartók, whilst the lilting rhythms of the Scherzo and the gossamer Finale were played with wit and humour and brought the evening to a fitting close.

Chris Sallon

For more about the Juilliard String Quartet click here.

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Beethoven 250 at London’s Southbank Centre __________________________________
  • NEW! Snape Maltings – January to April 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Saffron Hall in February – August 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera in 2020 – Gluck’s Paris and Helen __________________________________
  • NEW! Surrey’s Grange Park Opera in 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Leeds Lieder Concert Series 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Edinburgh Usher Hall 2019-2020 Orchestral Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 2020 Ring Cycles __________________________________
  • NEW! Ex Cathedra’s 50th Anniversary Season in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Geneva Grand Théâtre in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! 2019-20 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden __________________________________
  • NEW! City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera House in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! English National Opera in 2019-2020 and New Artistic Director __________________________________
  • UPDATED! ENB in 2019-2020 and Opening of their New London City Island Home __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music and Other Events at the Southbank Centre in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Cleveland Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music at the Barbican in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Free Review Summary Newsletter

    Search S&H

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Ballet’s 70th Anniversary Gala Performances – 17 & 18 January 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! CONDUCTOR HERVÉ NIQUET INTERVIEWED ABOUT GRÉTRY’S RICHARD, COEUR DE LION __________________________________
  • NEW! SOPRANO ANGELA GHEORGHIU IN CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL COOKSON __________________________________
  • NOW REVIEWED! MATTHEW BOURNE’S ROMEO AND JULIET IN CINEMAS FROM 22 OCTOBER __________________________________
  • NEW! CELLIST JOHANNES MOSER IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • CHORUS MASTER STEPHEN DOUGHTY IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • REVIEWED! Ron Howard’s Pavarotti in Cinemas 13 July (Preview) and Nationwide (15 July) __________________________________
  • MULTI-FACETED MUSICIAN JOY LISNEY IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • ‘MUSICAL MAGIC’: AN INTERVIEW WITH VIOLINIST HENNING KRAGGERUD __________________________________
  • CONDUCTOR THOMAS SANDERLING IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH ITALIAN BARITONE FRANCO VASSALLO __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH LISETTE OROPESA AS SHE RETURNS TO LA OPERA FOR ORFEO ED EURIDICE __________________________________
  • BARRY DOUGLAS IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month