Cleveland Chamber Music Society:
The Jerusalem Quartet (October 9)
A longstanding audience favorite, the Jerusalem Quartet made their fifth appearance on the Cleveland Chamber Music Society Series on Tuesday, October 9, opening that organization's 63rd season in its newly official home at Plymouth Church in Shaker Heights. The move, a partial innovation, since the society has used Plymouth with some frequency in the past, is a welcome one both acoustically and logistically, and the society's board took pains last Tuesday to provide signage and floor plans to make the audience feel at home with Plymouth's building layout.
On this occasion, there was also a partial innovation in personnel: since the Jerusalem's last visit in 2010, violist Ori Kam has replaced founding quartet member Amihai Grosz. The quartet, who play in the unusual configuration (clockwise from left) of violin 1, cello, viola and violin 2, treated the sizeable audience to refined performances of works by Mozart, Shostakovich and Brahms.
After pausing for a brief moment to let a helicopter pass overhead, the Jerusalem launched elegantly into Mozart's Quartet in B-flat, K. 589, the penultimate of his twenty-three string quartets. Playing with great finesse, the ensemble expertly scaled its dynamics to the space and to Mozart's style. Mozart favored the cello in the second movement Larghetto, where its role in a trio passage was particularly lovely.
The Jerusalem are embarking on a cycle of all fifteen of Dmitri Shostakovich's string quartets beginning later this month in Houston. No. 7 in f-sharp, the shortest of all of them, was the middle work on Tuesday's program. Conceived in three continuous and emotionally ambiguous movements, the work was alternatively cheerful, creepy and elegiac — and on this occasion, distracted a bit by a medical emergency in the balcony that was quietly seen to by audience members before the EMS arrived. The Jerusalem played it with contained intensity and rhythmic precision, especially in the final movement when ideas from the first Allegro make a return appearance.
After intermission, Brahms's B-flat quartet, op. 67 began with a cheerful, chasse-like Vivace, and continued on through a sentimental Andante and a swoopy, waltz-like Agitato to the set of pretty variations that formed its thoroughly agreeable finale.
This was a delightful evening of finely-crafted chamber music from a quartet of excellent, equally-matched players whose sonorities blend into a smooth ensemble sound while still preserving their individual voices. In Plymouth's warm, vibrant acoustics, every detail of the music comes across whether you sit on the floor or upstairs. The balcony surrounds the sanctuary on three sides and gives patrons their choice of bird's eye views. This capacious yet intimate room has to be one of the best places in Cleveland to hear chamber music.
Next on the series: the Tokyo Quartet, scheduled to retire in July, give their Cleveland valedictory performance on October 30.
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Published on ClevelandClassical.com October 18, 2012
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