It's always a special occasion when the Tokyo String Quartet, one of the world's premier chamber music ensembles, comes to town. A moderately sized yet fervent audience at the Folly Theater Friday night seemed to agree as the ensemble, presented by the Friends of Chamber Music, displayed an elegant and finely wrought sound.
The program opened with the String Quartet in G Major, Op. 77, No.1, a late work by Haydn. The opening was a musical revelation, rich in tone, crisp and energetic and oh, so sweetly blended.
The second movement began in a more expressive fashion, and cellist Clive Greensmith played with a particularly warm and resonant tone. The ensemble employed an extraordinary array of musical colors and elicited an especially effective soft sound. Brisk tempo and crisp articulation characterized the minuet, while the trio exhibited impressive dynamic contrast.
The quartet brought Haydn's musical language to life in the finale with exuberance and charm.
The rarely heard String Quartet No. 4, Op. 22 by German composer Paul Hindemith followed next. It opened with soft, haunting and ethereal tones accompanied by gossamer-thin textures and mildly dissonant harmonies.
The work was a study in contrast, though, also featuring furious rhythms, virtuosic cello runs, dancelike passages and a dramatic flourish at the end. That quartet made a compelling case that the work should be heard more often.
The players saved the best for last: Schumann's String Quartet in A Major, Op. 41, No. 3, played with sensational warmth and melodic richness. An impressive set of variations in the second movement was played superbly. The slow third movement was lush and lyrical, the most expressive section of the work.
For an encore the quartet returned to Haydn's music, playing the brief Minuet alla zingarese from his Op. 20, No. 4 String Quartet in D,