Brilliant ABT; Cleveland Quartet; limping 'Hypochondriac'; Pro Arte
Celestial Cleveland Quartet The Cleveland Quartet is a rather ungainly looking foursome that plays like angels.
Last Saturday they lived up to their nearly unparalleled worldwide renown before a three-quarter-full Jordan Hall audience.
Upon hearing their highly polished Dvorak (selections from ''Echoes of Songs''), Ravel (Quartet in F Major), and Beethoven (Quartet in A minor, Op. 132 ), my first thought was that this is the group I would want to interpret my works if I were a composer. It doesn't get in the way.
In assessing quartet playing, you look for how well each musician sublimates his own musical ego to the concerns of the whole - all the while holding on to individual interpretation and standing ready for the spotlight when the music calls.
In the Dvorak, for instance, the first violin is called upon to sing, and Donald Weilerstein delivered beautifully. Otherwise he held back and let the group heave and sigh as one instrument. With the Cleveland you don't get the feeling that each member (or the group as a whole, for that matter) is vying to prove something.
It was an evening of treacherous first-violin/cello dialogues, and dizzying second-violin/viola interplay. But the players always gave the impression of great ease, particularly in the fugal fourth movement of the Beet-hoven, which is always manic.
The Cleveland has paid the price of commitment, and the rest of us get to cash in on the rewards of its faithfulness - Dvorak, Ravel, and Beethoven played as purely as they themselves would have wanted.