Members of the Juilliard String Quartet, joined by pianist Gilbert Kalish and bassist Edwin Barker, played an interestingly diverse program at the National Academy of Sciences Monday night.
But while all of the pieces were performed with the kind of aplomb generally associated with top-class players, one might question whether 20th-century music inspired by Jungian psychology played next to a 19th-century string quartet based on a song about a fish makes for a prudent juxtaposition. Program John Harbison's "Fantasy-Duo" (1988) alongside Schubert's Piano Quintet in A, Op. 114, D. 667, "The Trout" (1819), and that's exactly what you get.
It's rather like looking at odd paintings hung next to each other in a gallery: One wonders if the artists would approve. It's hard not to like the familiar and sunny Schubert work, especially when every note and phrase is so lovingly detailed. Conversely, it's hard to take to a work such as Harbison's when its modus operandi is rooted (to quote the program notes) in "Jungian auxiliary functions, extrovert-sensation, held within the predominating type-introvert-feeling."
Ultimately, of course, music should stand on its own merits. In the case of the Schubert these are already proven; in 150 years, one might feel similarly about the Harbison. Frankly, this reviewer doubts it.