The Orford String Quartet from Canada, an ever-welcome visitor to these parts, brought its best to Royce Hall on the UCLA campus on Sunday afternoon.
It also brought a soloist, pianist Anton Kuerti, long a mainstay of Canadian concert life.
The quartet was in splendid and--as things turned out--unexpectedly familiar form. Explanation: The new violist, Sophie Renshaw, was indisposed and had to be replaced by Robert Levine, whom she had replaced earlier this year as a permanent member of the group.
The Orford--violinists Andrew Dawes and Kenneth Perkins, Levine and cellist Denis Brott-- opened Sunday's program with maximum-strength Haydn, his Quartet in D, Opus 76, No. 5, and projected it not only with the forcefulness and clarity characteristic of this superb ensemble but with the fleetness; hard, short bowstrokes and lightened sonority that indicate stylistic awareness.
The doggedly upbeat Second String Quartet (1942) of Prokofiev, which followed, may not be out of that composer's top drawer, but it does offer a workout for the players, who showed spectacular teamwork in the tricky, driving rhythms of the corner movements.
Kuerti brought a becomingly hard-edged sonority to Schumann's Piano Quintet, contrasting neatly with--and cutting through--the ripe sound of the strings.
Pianist and quartet combined for a vigorous, unsentimental and mechanically near-perfect--the strings had to rein in their excitable colleague in the scherzo's second trio section when he threatened to run it off the track--account of a work that can, when handled improperly, approach the saccharine.