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Tokyo String Quartet Presents Bartók-Haydn Series at 92Y

by Melanie Wong


After 43 years, the distinguished Tokyo String Quartet (TSQ) has announced that 2012-13 will be their farewell season, and approaching the end of their run, TSQ gave their penultimate NYC performance last Saturday at 92Y, where they debuted in 1977 and have held residency since 2003. The evening’s program was part of TSQ’s two-year Bartók-Haydn cycle that concludes this weekend.

TSQ opened with an unbelievably nuanced rendition of Haydn’s String Quartet in G major, No. 1. TSQ had incredible ensemble awareness and, quite unlike the Olympic-style playing so often heard in young players today, they played with an old style that was exactly as you imagine Haydn would have wanted. Rather than playing mere notes on a page to technical perfection, there was something special in their musicality and interpretation that was balanced with refinement and confidence.

Zoltán Kodály’s String Quartet No. 2 served as an interlude between the Haydn and Bartók. The contemplative first movement led to the second movement's exciting, rhythmic folk dance. Again, TSQ played beautifully and stylistically.

TSQ closed the program with Bartók’s String Quartet No. 5, an intensely chromatic piece with an abundance of irregular rhythms, unexpected harmonies, and interspersed folk melodies. Throughout, TSQ aggressively tackled the many technical challenges and showed the full extent of their expertise. Most notable were the fourth movement’s humorous pizzicato-glissandi and bouncing bows, which kept the audience chuckling, and the riveting, chaotic finale. Violist Kazuhide Isomura and cellist Clive Greensmith were particularly enjoyable; their unity and rich tones remarkable.

Surely a quartet that everyone should experience, TSQ will present their final NYC concert this Saturday, May 11. Tickets and event information can be found at 92Y's site