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THE AVIV STRING QUARTET (article first published : 2003-09-24)

The Aviv String Quartet’s performance on September 23 was one of the best concerts ever presented by the Friends of Music.

The players in this Israel-based quartet, all of them quite young, come from various parts of the world, Russia, Canada and Israel itself, and they have developed a musical partnership of the highest quality.

It is impossible to single out any one of them as a star turn. Sergei Ostrovsky, first violin, obviously leads the quartet and does so with great accomplishment but the other players also continually catch the ear and eye: Evgenia Epstein, second violin, Shuli Waterman, viola, and Rachel Mercev, cello.

The programme consisted of masterworks by three great composers: Mozart’s “Dissonance” Quartet K465, Beethoven’s F Major Quartet from Op.18, and Schumann’s Piano Quintet Op 44, in which the string players were joined by Dror Biran, an Israeli pianist of confident skill and musicality. Encores are rare at chamber concerts but the large audience showed such enthusiasm at the end that the players repeated part of the final movement of the Schumann.

These works give each player an opportunity to shine at various times but the performances never degenerated into displays of virtuosity. The balance maintained by the various instruments was exceptional, as was their decisive attack. If I were looking for faults I would be hard put to find any.

I spoke at a post-concert function and mentioned that I had at home recordings of all three of these works and had played them dozens of times over the years, but had never enjoyed the music as much as I did on this occasion. That is what a live performance does, with its immediacy and involvement with the audience. Bravo.

Before these concerts the Friends of Music present “prelude performances” by young musicians, with the help of funds from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund. This time the performer was Ntokozo Xaba, a coloratura soprano who is a student at the University of Natal. She sang two unusually difficult Mozart arias and gave a creditable account, but I sometimes wonder whether young performers would not be better advised to tackle something less ambitious until they have fully mastered their craft. - Michael Green




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