Last night we went to Jordan Hall to hear the Tokyo Quartet and Lynn Harrell perform the Schubert Quintet. It’s an amazing piece of music on several levels. It was a major influence on a number of later works (e.g. Brahm’s Op. 34a & b), but it’s such a dominate piece in the chamber music repertoire that following composers seem to have deliberately avoided too many direct similarities. The five performers did a great job with it. I particularly enjoyed Harrell’s pizzicato work in the Adagio. That part has always reminded me so much of the ticking of a clock that the whole piece seems to be about the passage of time.
Before the intermission, the quartet performed Mozart’s String Quartet No. 21 and Barber’s Quartet. The Mozart, one of the Prussian Quartets, is a very pretty piece, and they sounded beautiful in it. I was particularly impressed by Kazuhide Isomura’s viola playing. They play a set of Stradivarius (Stradivarii?) that were once owned by Paganini. The Barber is, of course, a hard piece to hear on its own now because of the way the 2nd movement has wandered off by itself to become such a pop culture icon.