Mendelssohn (op. posth. 80) / Beethoven (op. 135), Jupiter String Quartet
It was sometimes brilliant, sometimes tender Mozart first, the genial D major quartet, K. 575, which featured the Jupiter's warm, cohesive ensemble sound quite scrumptiously in the second movement. The other three movements moved perhaps a bit too fast for their Allegretto tempo markings, not harried but also not allowing this gentle music to unfold comfortably. The sound panel-fueled acoustic brings sounds quickly to the ear, including individual bites of attack, but it also made it easy to appreciate the best individual tone of this foursome, the ripe, flavorful viola of Liz Freivogel (sister of Meg). McDonough also had a pleasing turn in the cello's solo musings in the trio of the third movement. The concert's final work, Brahms's first quartet (C minor, op. 51/1), impressed even more, because it made a strong case for the piece, when this composer's string quartets have generally struck me as inferior to the chamber music with piano. The Jupiter's interpretation did not go for loud and aggressive sounds, giving a hushed, interior quality even to the agitated first movement. The second-movement Romanze glowed with an introspective softness, and the violins soft-pedaled their parts in the third movement, revealing the viola theme as the central melody, also taking the pizzicati in the trio quite gently. This approach, not squeezing the emotion out of the piece, really allowed the music its secrets, its shyness, even in the often strident Finale, up to the overwrought coda.
Robert Battey, Music review: Jupiter String Quartet (Washington Post, October 9)
You will have to wait until this winter for the next chance to hear a concert at the National Academy of Sciences, with the Imani Winds (February 10, 3 pm).