One of these years, this outstanding period-instrument quartet will (I hope) favor Bay Area audiences with the Bartók and Webern it’s been playing in recent years. Still, its Stanford Lively Arts program in April will be as close as you can get to that level of experimentation without straying into the 20th century.
Haydn’s Op. 20/3 is an amazing work, from its opening (with two seven-bar phrases that make you wonder whatever might come next — and sometimes I guarantee you’ll guess wrong, unless you already know the piece), to one of the deepest (and most cello-friendly) slow movements Haydn ever wrote, to a skittish finale in which the second violin gets unexpected attention.
On the other end of the program is Beethoven’s Op. 95, called “Serioso.” This is Beethoven’s tautest and, well, meanest quartet, but with its moments of not-quite-quiet rest, as well. In between comes Mozart’s “Hunt” Quartet, which in this context might seem indecently cheerful, but which also has a slow movement of surpassing depth.
East Bay audiences can hear this Viennese group, an offshoot of Concentus Musicus Wien, in a slightly more genial mood at First Congregational Church in Berkeley one day earlier (April 13). The group’s Cal Performances program consists of Haydn’s Op. 76/4 (“Sunrise”), an early Mendelssohn work, and Schubert’s A Minor, D. 804.
Michelle Dulak Thomson is a violinist and violist who has written about music for Strings, Stagebill, Early Music America, and The New York Times.