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'Muß es sein?': Joel Krosnick Departs

available at Amazon
Carter, String Quartets 1-5, Juilliard String Quartet
(Sony, 2014)
When Ionarts came into being in the early part of the millennium, the Juilliard String Quartet was still in residence at the Library of Congress. The group has continued in various formations, returning to play at the National Gallery in 2008, for example. This season is the last for cellist Joel Krosnick, the only current member who played with founding violinist Robert Mann. The group returned to the Library of Congress on Saturday afternoon for Krosnick to take a valedictory lap, cheered on by many listeners who remember the good old days.

Things are looking up for the Juilliard, since the new additions are encouraging. Joseph Lin, who joined at first violin in 2011, had an overall powerful primarius sound, especially pretty at the high end. Violist Roger Tapping, formerly of the beloved Takács Quartet, joined in 2013, and although he was largely invisible in the opening piece, Schubert's Quartettsatz, he came to the fore in many solo moments in the middle work, Elliott Carter's first string quartet. (Tapping joined the Juilliard after the group had recorded Carter's fifth string quartet, released in a set in 2014, with the earlier recordings of the first four.)

Other Reviews:

Robert Battey, A changed sound is heard in Juilliard Quartet’s concert at Library of Congress (Washington Post, February 28, 2016)

Zachary Woolfe, Juilliard String Quartet Shows Agility at Alice Tully Hall (New York Times, November 24, 2015)
Neither of these pieces showed the quartet's new formation in the best light, however, due to some intonation issues in the first violin in the Schubert. One does wish that the Juilliard had chosen something other than the Carter, a work hard to love in spite of Lin's long, purple-prose introduction. The listener does come across moments of beauty here and there, like the lovely muted duet for the violins in the slow movement or the "boogie-woogie" passages in the third movement, here from a composer who had actually heard boogie-woogie.

At the cello Krosnick is not up to his former standards, but he seemed most at home in Beethoven's final string quartet, op. 135. Rather than the autumnal solemnity of some late Beethoven, the piece takes many jovial turns, brought out with a flexible sense of ensemble in the first movement. The bright-eyed, rollicking Vivace was nimble in all parts, with a sense of eye-twinkling from Krosnick's seat, and the slow movement showed off Lin's warm low-string sound. To the cellist's insistent repetitions of the head motif in the finale ("Muß es sein?", or Must it be?), the quartet took comic delight in chattering (musically) the response ("Es muß sein"). The latter is a reference to a comic canon Beethoven composed in 1826, informing a patron, who wanted to have a performance of one of Beethoven's string quartets in his house, that yes, the patron must pay the required fee to have a copy of the score ("Es muss sein! Ja ja ja ja! Heraus mit dem Beutel!," or It must be! Yes yes yes yes! Out with the wallet!). An encore, the slow movement from Mozart's K. 465 ("Dissonance"), offered a final moment of farewell.

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