Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
"This is my favorite one," the elderly lady on the aisle said. She was referring to the fifth of Bartok's six string quarters that the Juilliard was just about to play last night at the Library of Congress. "What if you don't like the 20th century?" her companion asked. "Then you don't belong in it!" was the firm reply.
Clearly, the Juilliard belongs to it. They play Bartok with the authoritative impetuosity that leaves accents etched like milestones in the path of the music and that makes even the most intricate phrases sound inevitable. At the same time, their ensemble, which often sounds like a mere byproduct of their playing together, is an ideal vehicle for the sort of tranquil release that occurs at the end of the Bartok fourth movement. Their pulse beats with Bartok's, strongly if irregularly, but always with conviction.
The drive and weight that gave the Bartok such vitality, however, made the Haydn Quartet Op. 71 No. 3 that preceded it sound like it was being walked through in hip boots. This is a delightful quartet. Its wit is the sort that Haydn was famous for, but in this performance, particularly the outer movements were given a heavy, stodgy flavor that didn't sit well.