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MUSIC REVIEW : Talich String Quartet in Laguna Beach : The notes were all there, but the delivery lacked vitality. A lack of leadership was evident.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Talich String Quartet delivered all its notes with exacting reliability Thursday night for the Laguna Beach Chamber Music Society. But it failed to breathe life into its creations.

The main casualty of the concert, held in Artists’ Theater at Laguna Beach High School, was Brahms’ Quartet in A minor, Opus 51, No. 2.

Here, the musicians--violinists Petr Messiereur and Jan Kvapil, violist Jan Talich (nephew of the founder of the Czech Philharmonic, for whom the quartet is named), and cellist Evzen Rattay--opened perfunctorily. Lack of leadership plagued the first movement, resulting in haphazard balance and aimless busywork.

The four sleepwalked through the Andante with deadpan refinement, repeating phrases without varying inflections, mustering little tension for contrasting passages. Rattay’s cello spoke with rich tone, yet minimal expression during solos.

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Jan Talich began the Finale with promising decisiveness. Yet it degenerated into a bland miasma, confused by Messiereur’s pale guidance.

The ensemble brought a businesslike, though ever-polished approach to works by two composers from their native Czechoslovakia--Janacek and Martinu.

They did manage a funny, spirited reading of the Moderato of Martinu’s Quartet No. 2, notable for an impressively controlled sotto voce, and a rhythmically engaging second movement. Nevertheless, their grim involvement in the closing Allegro conveyed only latent excitement.

A coarse, nervous tone set the stage for Janacek’s Quartet No. 1, his “Kreutzer Sonata.” This piece--the first of the evening--requires immediate immersement and latecomers impeded audience concentration by entering during the performance. Finally, the work succumbed, in the fourth movement, to an ever-present forte.

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The Scherzo from Schubert’s Opus 125 was the single encore.


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