At Gindi Auditorium on Saturday, under the aegis of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and before an audience that might have stayed all night if the performers had asked them to, the Bartok Quartet of Budapest presented a master class in the art of communication. And in the equally arcane art of effective programming.
The audience was held captive from the seraphic opening of Haydn's dazzling--and seldom heard--Quartet in D, Opus 76, No. 5, through the mercilessly abject beauty of Shostakovich's Eighth Quartet, to the lyric opulence of Schumann's A-minor Quartet.
The Bartok's Haydn is both silken and lusty, with a bumptious cutting-loose in the scherzo that reflects the composer's peasant (and possibly Hungarian) roots. For the gut-wrenching Shostakovich, a heavier, more vibrant sonority was applied, with the ensemble's entire technical arsenal on display. Its sweetly pathetic conclusion was greeted by a few seconds of stunned silence--followed by a torrent of applause.
Not even these artists--violinists Peter Komlos and Geza Hargitai, violist Geza Nemeth, cellist Laszlo Mezo--could harness the gorgeous jumble of Schumann's A-minor Quartet. In fact, the ensemble briefly came unglued in its opening movement, where the composer is formally at his vaguest. But when that huge, throbbing song of the Adagio kicked in, we were in the presence of prime Schumann, flawlessly executed.
In response to the audience's rhythmic applause--unheard of at a chamber music concert--after the Schumann work, a single encore was offered: not the customary virtuoso zinger, but the moonstruck slow movement of the Debussy Quartet.