The Canberra performance in the final concert tour of the Tokyo String Quartet was a poignant occasion.
Since its formation in 1969 the ensemble has worked to consolidate a distinctive sound, which despite the change of personnel, has retained at its heart the influence of Hideo Saito of the Toho Gakuen School of Music in Tokyo.
Professor Saito's focus on crystal-clear communication through gesture resonates through the signature sound quality of the ensemble's perfectly timed chords and the subtly emphasised placing of the cello voice in the ensemble.
Peter Sculthorpe's String Quartet No.16 was the first in the program of ''late great works'' selected for the Australian tour. This work provided the quartet with the opportunity to revisit and celebrate a work in which they worked with the composer in 2005.
An ancient love chant from central Afghanistan wound its sinuous way through cello and viola, violin to violin juxtaposed with passages suggesting the terror of confinement.
The ensemble endowed the Mozart String Quartet No.20 in D major - ''Hoffmeister'' - with a particular mellowness produced by the two violins, viola and cello made by Antonio Stradivari.
Eschewing the acute elasticity and razor attack of some other ensembles, the Tokyo brought a different magic to their interpretation. Led by Martin Beaver and supported by Kikuei Ikeda's faultless interplay, the warmth of tone and undulating co-ordination of the players' movements conjured up an image of the ensemble as a purring Mozartian cat.
Undoubtedly the highlight of the evening was the Schubert String Quartet No.15 in G major. In a unique Tokyo moment, the shivering, fragile tremolo opened the Allegro leading to glorious cello excursions in the Andante un poco moto. The beauty of cellist Clive Greensmith's facial expressions and the graceful economy of Kazuhide Isomura's viola throughout the performance were priceless gifts.