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Leontovych Four Play With Energy

Many string quartets strive to achieve a silken texture, aiming more for ethereal gleam than muscular tone. Not so the rough-and-ready Leontovych Quartet, which plays with a coarser feel but a thoroughly engaging energy and sense of purpose.

The Ukrainian-based ensemble made its Southland debut two years ago and landed in the gilded living room--the “chamber"--of the Doheny Mansion on Friday, as part of the “Chamber Music in Historic Places” series. As is the custom in this house, players set up in the round, facing each other around a floor lamp and under an ornate ceiling dome. It was a fitting setup for a quartet that plays in a tight, interactive way.

The players started at the veritable beginning, with Haydn’s Opus 1, No. 1, one of the seminal pieces of the composer’s long love affair with the form, and therefore arguably the genesis of the medium. If less developed than Haydn’s later works, this tidy and moving five-movement came to life in the group’s hands.

An entirely different expressive agenda emerges in Debussy’s Quartet in G minor, Opus 10. The group’s approach captured a furtive emotionality in the outer movements, and the impressionistic tenderness of its slow movement.

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After intermission, they came home, in a way--in another way, they never left, classical literature being a universal living room. Russian Romantic composer Alexander Borodin’s Quartet in D, No. 2 gets thick with earnestness in its opening but tugs agreeably at heartstrings in the middle two movements, with their lovably familiar themes, played with gusto by the ensemble.


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