Playing a program certain to send chamber music aficionados into raptures, the Tokyo String Quartet received a warm welcome at the Corcoran Gallery last night. The evening, which found the ensemble in its usual suave form, began with the inspired exuberance of Haydn's D-Major Quartet, Op. 76, No. 5, moved through the fierce intensity of Brahms' first quartet and ended, with the able assistance of violist Miles Hoffman, on the poignant spirituality of Mozart's G-Minor Viola Quintet.
By coincidence none of the three works has an opening introduction. Bursting with ideas, Haydn skips right into an ingratiating theme that is ingeniously developed, Brahms goes straightaway into dense brooding and Mozart, without warning, opens his heart. The Tokyo proved particularly adept in plunging immediately into the center of these three highly contrasting worlds, finding not only the appropriate technical vocabulary but also, more importantly, the expressive understanding.
The group's silken ensemble blend, with which vilist Hoffman superbly merged, turned the Mozart adagio into a luminous hymn, one of the evening's most special moments. Occasionally, in the Haydn and Brahms particularly, the quartet needed to give the music a little more space in which to expand, and first violinist Koichiro Harada had his inconsistencies, mixing golden phrases with some more ordinary ones, but these were minor flaws in a highly pleasurable performance.