Tokyo String Quartet reaffirms its mastery

Special to The Times

Returning to the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts after a 12-year hiatus, the Tokyo String Quartet on Friday reestablished its sometimes debated standing as a major player in the hierarchy of international chamber ensembles.

With its first violinist, the Canadian Martin Beaver, now solidly in place since joining the group in 2002, and the other members maintaining the ensemble’s distinguished reputation, the Tokyo is in a new era of musical power and finesse. Its program of demanding works by Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms was performed effortlessly in a style both technically impeccable and musically single-minded.

Here were performances equally mellow and aggressive, starting with the exposing Quartet in C, K. 465, by Mozart (the “Dissonant”), upon which the four players lavished tonal lustrousness and virtuosic ease. Subtle contrasts and sharp stylistic details marked their bold approach to Beethoven’s Opus 18, No. 6, in B flat, which got a deeply probing reading.

Beaver’s gifted partners are violinist Kikuei Ikeda, violist Kazuhide Isomura -- the only remaining founding member of the 36-year-old ensemble -- and British cellist Clive Greensmith. Their interactions are swift, personal and astute; they take no missteps.


They topped this richly satisfying performance with Brahms’ C-minor Quartet, Opus 51, No. 1, in a reading both heartfelt and analytical. The high point here was the third-movement allegretto, as delicate, graceful and ethereal as the opening allegro had been distraught and abstracted. Brahms’ chamber music is ever a picture of an emotional world in microcosm.