Universal acclaim is a weighty mantle indeed, when one considers the vagaries of the recording and concert worlds. The Cleveland Quartet enjoys international prominence, and deservedly so. They are four equally dynamic musical personalities that think and play as one -- the kind of singular voice that can shift from utter purity to piquancy to a dying whisper at the drop of a downbow.
More importantly, their vision extends beyond the notes on the printed page, as if they have been granted a private audience with the composer. Last night, at the University of Maryland's Center of Adult Education, their performance was in the finest traditions of Classical chamber music.
Beethoven's early period Quartet in G, Op. 18, No. 2, with its bold themes and invigorating contrapuntal textures, came off with a robust Viennese charm. The effect was forceful, never overanxious and with just enough demonic thrust to ensure the Beethoven stamp.
Cellist Evelyn Elsing joined the quartet for a majestic rendition of Schubert's Quintet in C Major. She proved to be a most sympathetic addition, whether plucking accompaniment, harmonizing with or doubling the part of Paul Katz. Consistently brisk tempos, that never impeded Schubert's effusive lyricism, made the performance a risky venture at times.