The New Zurich String Quartet made an auspicious appearance last night at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Teater. The players approached the music in a European manner that was most ingratiating.
If the high point was Georges Enescu's D Minor Piano Quartet (with pianist Lory Wallfisch), it was primarily because of the work's rarity rather than any comparative inferiority of the Haydn and Brahams quartets that completed the program.
For these who think of Enescu only as the composer of those plush, extravagant musical travelogues, the Romanian Rhapsodies, this intense, almost grim Piano Quartet came as a surprise.
The quartet is an antiwar piece, which he wrote in his native Romania, where he had fled from Nazi-occupied Paris. The anger and defiance written into the wartime works of Bartok or Honegger or even Stravinsky is missing here. Except in the aggressive last movement, the Quartet is wistful and sad -- tonal, of course, but with considerable ambivalence.
Enescu was a celebrated violinist and one won't hear much lovelier use of the low strings than in this piece. The piano part, played splendidly by Wallfisch, is less rewarding and is very hard.
The concert began with Haydn's delectable G Major Quartet, Op. 73, No. 1, played with American precision and rhythm and European lyricism. What could be better?
Finally came Brahms' autumnal C Minor Quartet, Op. 51, No. 1. A little bit of hardness slipped through in the first violinist's playing, not entirely inappropriately.