The Guarneri String Quartet may have done its farewell tour thing a couple of years ago, but it has stayed on in its longtime role as quartet-in-residence at the University of Maryland, where, from time to time, in the company of other U-Md. musicians, the players resurface in the guise of “Guarneri and Friends.” On Friday at the Smith Center’s Dekelboum Concert Hall, this, too, came to an end with “Guarneri and Friends — The Final Concert.” It was a bittersweet occasion: Old friends engaged in their familiar undertaking but without the intensity or emotional power that had made their earlier collaborations so musically satisfying.
As a last piece, they chose the first of the Brahms String Sextets, a warmly orchestral-sounding work whose rhythmic and harmonic structures require an enormous sense of breadth and momentum in its performance. Unhappily, momentum, particularly in the second movement, got lost in attention to detail, and without momentum, breadth morphed into plodding. Cellist Evelyn Elsing and violist Katherine Murdock, U-Md. faculty members, joined the Guarneri four and melted comfortably into the ensemble, although Murdock had a real challenge on her hands in trying to match the power and warmth of Michael Tree’s viola tone.