The frigid cold may have kept some listeners home, but it did not deter the Jerusalem Quartet from playing at Shriver Hall on Sunday evening. The ensemble arrived in Baltimore only a short time before the concert was scheduled to begin, because of weather-related flight troubles, and the cellist, whose suitcase was lost, wore jeans — but when they played, all such cares were forgotten.
Haydn’s “The Rider” quartet (Op. 74, No. 3) was crisp and light, the first movement’s triple-meter lilt enlivened by each player leaning on the chromatic motif that runs through it. The second movement was gracefully phrased, with first violinist Alexander Pavlovsky ornamenting the melody like an operatic soprano. After a compact Menuetto, the finale, with the lightly trotting motif that gave the quartet its nickname, was a delightful ride.
In Erwin Schulhoff’s “Five Pieces for String Quartet,” the musicians went for more than just a pleasing evocation of different international dance styles, with the maximum sense of musical character wrung out of each short work. The performance finally put the normally reticent Ori Kam, who replaced founding violist Amihai Grosz in 2011, in the spotlight — and to pleasing effect.
Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden” quartet (D. 810) featured on one of the group’s best recordings, and it concluded this concert in grand style. The ensemble showed outstanding control in the tragic rendition of the sotto voce theme of the variations movement, based on Schubert’s eponymous song. Menace seeped from the dialogue of that song into the other movements, hinted at in both the coda of the first movement and the hard edge of the Menuetto. The finale, impossibly fast but also light, was understated but in a devastating way.
Downey is a freelance writer.