Quartet Sine Nomine’s Sound Comes in Solid and Crisp

The Quartet Sine Nomine is hardly without a name, nor is it impersonal or faceless. Sunday afternoon the veteran Swiss ensemble returned to Los Angeles, delivering a solid and compelling account of a conventional but unhackneyed program to a large audience at UCLA’s Schoenberg Hall.

Violinists Patrick Genet and Francois Gottraux, violist Nicolas Pache and cellist Marc Jaermann produced a big, articulate sound in Schoenberg’s flattering acoustic. Where less technically adroit groups attempt to pass off scratchy, uncontrolled playing as gritty intensity in Bartok’s Quartet No. 3, for example, this foursome supplied carefully modulated, resonant tone.

Which is not to say that they are incapable of timbral variety or edgy nuance, only that when they walk on the wild side, they do so deliberately, never forced to make a virtue of necessity. They also attended to Bartok’s unique architecture with illuminating clarity of purpose, despite the attention-shattering thwack of a unison page turn near the beginning.

Warm and expansive, yet pliable and rhythmically acute, their sound seems almost ideal for Dvorak. That composer’s Quartet No. 14 in A-flat burst from them in a flood of instrumental song and dance, brimming with character and vitality. Yet for all the passion and individuality of expression in the playing, textures remained transparent, balances unflappable and direction firmly focused.


These Swiss seem neutral in the style wars, opening with some blandly accomplished Haydn--the Quartet in C, Opus 64, No. 1--that proved undistinguished, though again sonically supremely poised. In encore they revisited Dvorak, excerpting a crisply leaping furiant dance.