Juilliard String Quartet April 11, 2008
Juilliard String Quartet Classical Quality at Cerritos
By Glen Creason
There is something so civilized about an evening of classical music at the theater, especially if the charmed hall is our own Performing Arts Center. Especially inviting are the sounds of a string quartet that suggest intimacy and fine musicianship inherent in such a concert. Being that the performers on this Friday night at the great hall were the exalted Juilliard String Quartet, possessing an illustrious bloodline and fifty years of such performances behind them and the composers were none other than Papa Haydn, Dmitri Shostakovich and Ludwig Van Beethoven this one seemed to be a sure thing. Certainly the evening possessed all of the assumed joys from those components but added much in the passion of the performance and some real surprises along the way. The Juilliard String Quartet is Joel Smirnoff and Ronald Copes on violins, Samuel Rhodes on Viola and Joel Krosnick on Cello. Each gentleman is an accomplished musician but in a string quartet putting egos aside and playing as one is all-important. This group is absolutely seamless in their approach and execution.
The concert opening Quartet in E-flat Major, Opus 76, No. 6 by Joseph Haydn showed some hints of adventure, commencing with the unusual allegretto that was rather forward thinking for the late 18th century when it premiered. The challenging piece was performed by the quartet with panache especially the beautiful Fantasia with the cello of Joel Krosnick taking flight and the playful Menuetto where the violins, viola and cello quite literally danced through the movement. Despite our two hundred year perspective on this composition it was very much ahead of its time with the future of 1800 ahead.
Shostakovich’s Quartet No. 13 in b-flat minor, Opus 138 was everything but soothing and classical. The piece immediately established a Russian influence and a modern setting charging the hall with unsettling, sometimes even disturbing musical images. The quartet is comprised of one adagio movement but five sections that make great demands on the musicians and their instruments. Violins are tapped in percussion, strings plucked and the central viola maintains a kind of expressive center to this rather challenging composition. Certainly, on this night there were those in the audience not enamored of this twentieth century modernism but others who sprang to their feet in a standing ovation at the conclusion. Shostakovich seems to bring strong emotions out of most aficionados of the form. If the Haydn was a delightful appetizer on the night and Shostakovich the daring entrée of exotica, then the concluding Beethoven was a lovely dessert. The Quartet in F Major, Opus 59, number 1 was sweetly lyrical, refreshingly energetic, expressive with rather grand gestures and gorgeous in its melody. The four movements had a perfect balance: the playful opening allegro, the very bold allegretto vivace, the dramatic adagio molto y mesto with its interplay between cello and violin and the finishing adagio based on a Russian melody that somehow completed the work perfectly.