MUSIC REVIEWS : Prague’s Talich Quartet Prevails Over Obstacles


Talk about triumphing over adversity, and of heroism in the face of certain defeat! The Talich String Quartet, pride of Prague, accomplished those feats in the first of three Music Guild concerts on consecutive days--tonight they’re at the Wilshire-Ebell--on a particularly foul, weatherwise, Monday night.

First, they had to conquer a pitiless foe: the sonic launching pad/boom box known as Gerald R. Daniel Recital Hall on the Cal State Long Beach campus, a venue almost comically unsuited to the Talich’s intimate style.

Then there was an airline snafu that caused violist Jan Talich’s suitcase, containing his music (don’t ever put anything vital to your livelihood into checked luggage!) and tux, to be sent in one direction while he went in another, necessitating a program overhaul--and shirtsleeves for Talich.


In the face of these challenges, the ensemble offered its strongest, most committed playing within memory, thanks in no small part to the vivifying presence of a young, new second violinist, Vladimir Bukac.

Jitters were dispatched at the outset in a scrambled reading of the 15-year-old Schubert’s E-flat Quartet, in which first violinist Petr Messiereur got some cloying, alt-Wien -style slides out of his system.

The heart of the concert, then, became Debussy’s G-minor Quartet, in a subtle, faceted reading that found the artists projecting an astonishingly wide dynamic range within a framework that rarely exceeded what other groups might regard as a forte .

Their interpretation climaxed in a bewitchingly misterioso Adagio, characterized by the dark velvet of Talich’s viola and the gently firm anchor of Evzen Rattay’s cello.

The program concluded with Dvorak’s “American” Quartet, propelled by Messiereur with nimble lightness of tone and sentiment, in delightful contrast to its lush, heroic delivery by the Tokyo Quartet, 24 hours earlier at Pepperdine University.