Juilliard String Quartet at Cerritos: Slightly New, Classically Perfect
By Glen Creason
The Juilliard String Quartet is so accomplished and so renowned that their style and commitment to the form is the gold standard in the field. These esteemed musicians never shrink from a challenge and never give less than total dedication to the meticulously chosen pieces of music they choose to perform. It is safe to say that in their long career, even longer than I have had ears to hear a stringed instrument, they have covered almost every period and style of classical music known to vibrate from the violin and cello. With a blustery Saturday night outside the Performing Arts Center
the quartet warmed a rapt Cerritos
audience with three extremely challenging works by two of the greatest names in music and a modern American composer who was shown to have a strong voice from the modern era. There was also some excitement for aficionados of the Juilliard Quartet since this was the introduction of the newest member, young Joseph Lin who certainly demonstrated that he upholds the high standards of this august group. It seems to be a great year in New York
for young men named Lin.
The evening began with one of Franz Josef Haydn’s later Quartets, the Quartet in G major, Opus 54, No. 1 which was composed in the mid 1780’s after he had already established himself as the master of the form and one of the most celebrated artists in Europe
. The piece in four parts was a perfect example of why Haydn was so popular in his time and through the following centuries. The beginning “Allegro” was so bright and lyrical it practically induced the audience to tap their feet. The Allegretto was then rather stately, measured with the tone of the lead violin of Joseph Lin sounding like spun gold. The light dance melody of the “Menuetto” was enhanced by the crisp interplay of the four instruments and the concluding presto was downright playful with its repeated motive that demanded perfect timing within the group. While the Juilliard Quartet has performed thousands of concerts they sounded fresh and full of energy throughout.
Donald Martino’s contemporary “Quartet No. 5” was completely different in almost every way with its atonal language and twelve-tone row as theme. The piece is written in a traditional format but the presentation is powerfully emotional, especially in the “Presto” with a jagged, arresting theme that is filled with the plucking of the instruments that seem to speak to one another. After a lengthy and mournful “Adagio” the quartet revisited the previous themes in the final “Allegro” that really allowed the artists to stretch out their chops.
The final offering of the concert was the magnificent “Quartet in B-flat major, Opus 130 with Grosse Fuge Opus 133” by Ludwig van Beethoven. This is a composition that just doesn’t want to stop and after the traditional four parts where every human emotion seems to get expressed the grand fuge finale throbs with passion and complexity that shows the four months of struggle Beethoven put into this work. A microcosm of the entire concert was the absolutely exquisite playing of Joseph Lin on the “Cavatina,” the penultimate component of the piece. The quartet lifted the young Lin up and he made these few minutes in an already wonderful concert as memorable as any you will hear anywhere, anytime.