By Lawrence Budmen

The Jerusalem Quartet, one of the world’s finest young chamber ensembles, played a superb program of works by Haydn, Smetana, and Dvorak on Thursday night at UM Gusman Hall for the Friends of Chamber Music. The Israel based group’s splendid musical rapport, shining tone, and bold phrasing were distinctive. 

Haydn’s Sunrise Quartet was played with intensity and verve by the Jerusalem players. They brought sinewy power to the score’s remarkable opening movement. The noble melody of the Adagio was enveloped in molten lava of tonal richness and fervor. The wonderful cascading dialogue between violinist Alexander Pavlovsky and cellist Kyril Zlotnikov offered a uniquely transcendent moment of heavenly beauty. The players captured the playful wit of the Menuet and offered a brisk, transparent reading of final Allegro.

Pavlovsky and violist Amihai Grosz commanded attention with the dramatic depth of the instrumental recitatives that open Smetana’s autobiographical First Quartet (From My Life). The soaring violin duo of Pavlovsky and Sergei Bresler brought a flowing cantabile line to the Largo. The rollicking brio that the Jerusalem foursome brought to the final country dance made the searing chords that interrupt the music (signifying the composer’s sudden deafness) all the more shocking. The poignant final bars have rarely resounded with such pathos. Smetana’s score is often played in an unimaginative, heavy handed manner. The Jerusalem musicians made every bar glow with drama and color. 

The ensemble turned to Czech music from America with Dvorak’s perennial American Quartet. The rapid fire dynamism of the opening Allegro was stirring. The musicians brought new life and vibrance to this musical evergreen. The silvery incandescence of the Jerusalem ensemble’s string tone made the evocative melody of the Largo truly take wing. Strong musical accents gave the trio of the third movement unusual weight and depth. The bows literally bounced on the strings in the final Vivace, taken at lightning speed. As an encore the quartet played the final movement of Haydn’s Quartet, Op.76, No.5 – a high spirited conclusion to an evening of remarkable music making. 

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