Reviews: Lutoslawski Quartet

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 March, 2013, 10:05am

Lutoslawski Quartet

HK Academy for Performing Arts Jockey Club Amphitheatre
Reviewed: March 21

The Lutoslawski Quartet was founded six years ago - no time in string quartet terms to develop a distinguished kind of sound that usually comes only after decades of dancing cheek to cheek with an assorted repertoire.

The technical assurance is clear, however, and taking the name of one of Poland's most celebrated composers reflects a confidence of living up to the association, and a commitment to the Polish repertoire.

This was reflected in Thursday's one-hour Arts Festival recital, played without a break: Witold Lutoslawski's String Quartet (1964) and Karol Szymanowski's String Quartet No2 (1927) were separated by Marcin Markowicz's String Quartet No3, commissioned in 2009 by the Silesian Quartet.

Markowicz is the quartet's second violinist, and it takes both courage and talent to act as the filling between his more illustrious compatriot composers. The piece is immediately accessible and attractive, however, through its subtle development of the core melodic material; the structure is clearly defined and offers the comfort of knowing where you are in the timeline. But there seemed to be more potential for emotion and contrast in the work than the matter-of-fact airing it received; the sorrowful scales of the opening, for example, felt quite numb, while brasher passages seemed mechanistic. With the composer in the driving seat, however, one assumes this was the desired effect.

First violinist Jakub Jakowicz, violist Artur Rozmyslowicz and cellist Maciej Mlodawski complete the line-up. For some reason, Jakowicz began his opening soliloquy in the Lutoslawski work before the hall had settled down; thereafter, they moved confidently through the contrasting episodes in the 25-minute work. Although engaging individually, the performance fell short of giving an organic overview of the work. The players' consistently edgy tone could have occasionally softened up.

Subtleties didn't overflow during the Szymanowski work, its other-worldly opening only partially captured; passing moments of sensuality merely half-grasped; contrasts in personality not fully drawn.

Sending us away with a movement of minor-key Mozart, played with a weak sense of balance, was not the best cherry to put on this challenging cake.