Mozart: String Quartet in B Flat, K. 589
Sibelius: String Quartet in D Minor, op. 56, "Voces intimae"
As the Guarneri String Quartet is quickly heading towards retirement and I was not fast enough to get a ticket for their long sold-out Kennedy Center concert, I decided to come to their performance at the Metropolitan Museum's sober and acoustically blessed small concert hall yesterday evening. Saying that this world-famous ensemble deserves the effort would be an understatement, and the solid mix of composers on the program added yet another incentive to the mission.
Bartok's third string quartet was in line with his constant goal of combining lyrical and rustic, but this time on a more blended scale. The soft beginning of the first movement and the more rhythmic opening of the second one offered a nicely defined contrast in romanticism and modernism, which was recapitulated in the well integrated, vibrant third movement.
After Bartok's cocktail experiment, Mozart sounded particularly classical. Probably written for the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhem III, a dedicated amateur cellist himself, it does emphasize the sounds of that instrument, adding a darker tone to the carefully intricate work.
I was particularly thrilled about the inclusion of Sibelius in the program. Composed while he was fearing for his health, his sonata starts with a short dialog between the cello and the first violin, and from there takes the audience through an involving roller-coaster before a fiery grand finale. The Adagio, also called "voces intimae", is structurally and musically the heart of the piece by quietly conveying feelings of anguish and darkness. In the hands of these four musicians, it easily rose to new heights and beautifully concluded an impeccable performance.