Now in its 28th season--middle age for a string quartet--the Tokyo String Quartet has a new first violinist: Mikhail Kopelman, a Ukrainian who for two decades held the equivalent post in the Borodin Quartet. Kopelman joined violinist Kikuei Ikeda (a member since 1974), founding violist Kazuhide Isomura and founding cellist Sadao Harada at Cal State Long Beach Saturday night.
Though the quartet has played on campus before, this was its first appearance at the acoustically inviting Carpenter Performing Arts Center. The quartet reiterated some of the masterly and solid musical qualities for which it is known.
Kopelman appeared not yet firmly established as the group’s spiritual leader--or perhaps mid-tour fatigue had lowered his energy level. The evening began and ended without inspiration, albeit on that high mechanical level one has come to expect from this ensemble. But at the concert’s central point, the Debussy Quartet fairly resonated with the inner life, splendid sound-world and telling details that make this work special in the repertory.
There were no large disappointments, only a few technical distractions and some attention-wandering, in the opening Schubert’s Quartet in B-flat, D. 112.
Here, and in Brahms’ C-minor Quartet, Opus 51, No. 1, an exposing and poignant slow movement brought out the ensemble’s strongest resources, and the audience, which seemed to fill more than half of the 1,162 seats in the commodious room, listened raptly.