The Juilliard String Quartet - that world-class foursome-in-residence from New York's music education mecca - helped christen the recently named Wang Celebrity Series this past weekend. It brought in Munich-born violist Walter Trampler for three Mozart quintets (C minor, K. 406; E-flat major, K. 614; and C major, K. 515).
Of the two widely defined categories of chamber musicians - those who sublimate individual expression to the whole vs. those who stumble over one another to vie for the spotlight - this group is of the former. Rarely do you distinctly hear those instruments in the middle register, between the sweet singing of first violinist Robert Mann (the only member of the original quartet) and the bittersweet bowing of cellist Joel Krosnick.
There was nothing noteworthy beyond fine playing until the second and third movements of the Quintet in E-flat major - the ablest, most sublime slow-movement playing I've ever heard. Usually, a quartet of this stature stakes its performance on the athletic movements, truly sizzling in polished unison, but hiding behind a forest of notes and virtuosity. The kind of skill we saw in the Andante and Menuetto: Allegretto of K. 614 demands a more practiced musicianship - and is thus more of a delight when done with aplomb.