Talich Quartet articulates mellow radiance in Beethoven, Janáček

You can tell a lot about a string quartet's strengths and weaknesses by hearing it play Beethoven. At a Library of Congress recital on October 18th 2010, the venerable Talich Quartet played Beethoven's B-flat String Quartet, Op. 18, No. 6, with scrupulous balances, spot-on intonation and an understated eloquence in the phrasing.

Other ensembles may hit this composer's dramatic inflections with more vigor, but the Talich players did justice to the score's emotive ebb and flow while also making sure that classical proportion and musical architecture remained intact. 
What struck one most, though, was the sheer beauty of the Talich's playing. These musicians brought the same handsome and refined sound - with its distinctive mellowness of timbre - to Janacek's String Quartet No. 1 (The Kreutzer Sonata). There's certainly room in this work's brooding melancholy and nervous outbursts to warrant a more trenchant approach than these musicians brought to it. But their razor-sharp articulation, tight ensemble and caressing tone brought Janacek's unconventional instrumental colors vividly to the fore.

It's no coincidence this Czech ensemble drew such arresting character from Janacek's folk-tinged syncopations, and that same attention to Czech dance rhythms informed their reading of Dvorak's G-Major String Quartet, Op. 106. Again, energy and poise were in equal balance, and an intense concentration and cogent through-line to their expression prompted Dvorak's melodies to blossom, while allowing the score's musical logic to register afresh.

Washington Post - Joe Banno

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