The Juilliard String Quartet, one of the finest American ensembles for more than 50 years, has chosen a program of Haydn, Beethoven, and Bartok that reminds us how critical each composer was to the string quartet as serious music. Haydn took it from the living room to the concert hall, Beethoven raised its stature to that of a symphony, and Bartok brought it into the 20th century. Haydn's Quartet in F Minor, op. 55, no. 2, has both pathos and humor, and its second movement is filled with his usual surprises, such as silences so sudden the work seems to be over, followed by equally startling key changes. By contrast, Bartok's Quartet no. 1 is dark and intensely emotional--its creepy, middle-of-the-night sounds owe much to Schoenberg, and its agitated yearning is reminiscent of Strauss and Wagner. His debt to Beethoven is also clear--the slow opening fugue is a direct reference to the op. 131 quartet. Beethoven's Quartet in A Major, op. 132, written only two years before his death, is both of and outside this world. Based on a single four-note theme, it conveys an enormous range of emotions and shifts subtly, often from one note to the next. Music requires time to exist, yet there are extraordinary moments in the quartet where time seems to stand still. This is transcendent music, and the opportunity to hear it performed live by a first-rate ensemble should not be missed. $40, $25, $10. Monday, June 28, 8 PM, Martin Theatre, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park; 847-266-5100.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Clemens Kalischer.