Went back to the Library of Congress for the Talich quartet in a program of Beethoven, Janacek, and Dvorak last night.
The Talich's Beethoven (No. 6) had a light, appealing bounciness to it, but I'm afraid I need something more to get me going about this piece. Why not serve up an all-Janacek first half and let DC hear both quartets 1 & 2? Do we really need to bait a FREE concert that only music lovers are schlepping to with such well-trod material? Did they feel an all-Czech program would pigeonhole them? Grumble. Anyhow, it was perfectly nice.
The Janacek quartet was a treat indeed. For anyone who knows the operas well, it is wonderful to hear those distinctive Janacek-ian harmonies emerge in these pieces. But the string quartets are a step beyond the operas in their inventiveness and interest in new sounds. Folky elements enter not as melodic material, but as disjointed fragments alongside passages of jarring noise. The Talich's take played up this inventiveness I think--rather than the propulsive energy I've heard elsewhere, the leisurely pacing, warm tone, and attention to detail allowed one to soak up the shifting, surprising environments Janacek creates. There are visceral and emotional thrills to be had in this piece that were not played to the hilt here, but the alternative was a more fluid and cerebral reading that fully inflamed one's sense of injustice at how rarely it gets programmed.
The Talich reserved their most profound investment for the Dvorak G Major Quartet (Op. 106) after the half. Making a solid case for the level of commitment necessary to ensure these works don't degenerate into static priddiness, they highlighted the many distinct textures in Dvorak's writing while maintaining a steady core of rich, generous, warmth--like strings with a molten chocolate inside. If Dvorak isn't always played like great Brahms, as I think it was here, well it should be.
The encore was more Dvorak featuring the viola of Vladimir Bukacs, whose clear, consistent tone was a standout throughout the evening. Special props are also warranted for the the exciting agility of Petr Prause's cello.
Other takes: Joe Banno in WaPo...