Jerusalem Quartet provides a musical treat
Experiencing music in the Conrad, the new home of the La Jolla Music Society, was a rare treat. At the April 9 concert, featuring the Jerusalem Quartet, the audience basked in the sunshine of sound projected by the Israeli musicians. The music floated gloriously in the fine acoustics of the recently completed space.
The foursome of the Jerusalem Quartet, Alexander Pavlovsky, Sergei Bresler, violins; Ori Kam, viola; Kyril Zlotnikov, cello; performed the String Quartet in G Major, Opus 76, No. 1 by Haydn; Debussy’s String Quartet; and concluded with one of Beethoven’s last quartets, Opus 127 in E-flat Major.
Their expressiveness in the Haydn, as well as their uncanny precision, instantly engaged their listeners. The dynamics, sometimes changing in surprising ways, were a source of musical delight.
The Debussy served as an excellent contrast. Although in the conventional four movements, with the first movement in sonata-allegro form, it contained many of Debussy’s impressionistic characteristics such as unexpected harmonic progressions and exotic tonalities. The slow movement was particularly melodious. Especially notable was the viola solo, played by Ori Kam.
There are times when one hears a rendition that sounds so beautiful, so meaningful, that it becomes the definitive performance in one’s memory, the standard by which all other performances are compared. That viola solo, with Kam’s vibrantly beautiful tone and lovely phrasing, was such a moment.
The final work, played after intermission, captured the grandeur and profundity of Beethoven’s final string quartets. This work was completed two years before the composer’s death.
Three of the musicians in the Jerusalem Quartet were born in the former Soviet Union. Both violinists, Alexander Pavlovsky and Sergei Bresler, came to Israel in 1991 from the Ukraine. The cellist, Kyril Zlotnikov, was born in Minsk, Belarus and made aliya with his family, when he was 12 years old. Those three were the original founders of the quartet. They were joined by violist, Ori Kam, in 2011, when their original violist, Amichai Grosz, took the post of principal violist with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.
The current violist, Ori Kam, was born in San Diego, when his father, Weizmann Institute Chemistry Professor, Zvi Kam, was doing post-doctoral work at UCSD, but grew up in Israel with his Sabra parents. His mother, violist Rachel Kam, was a long-time member of the Israel Philharmonic and served for many years as chair of their orchestra committee in the self-administered ensemble.
All four of the Jerusalem Quartet musicians perform as soloists and were prize winners in various competitions. They were all recipients of America-Israel Cultural Foundation scholarships. This is their 23rd year of international performances as the Jerusalem Quartet.
Hopefully, they will return again soon to share their remarkable artistry with La Jolla audiences in the new
acoustically magnificent Conrad of the La Jolla Music Society.
Wingard, a retired violinist with the San Diego Symphony, is a freelance writer specializing in coverage of the arts.