The Pacifica Quartet performed at Stanford Lively Arts on Wednesday, bringing with it a program of Beethoven, Carter, and Smetana. The program notes made much of the fact that the Beethoven (Op. 18, No. 2) and the Smetana (Quartet No. 1 in E Minor, "From My Life") were written when their composers were going deaf. Still, the works themselves, which respectively opened and closed the concert, don't have much in common. Neither did the Pacifica's approach to them. The Beethoven is the shortest of the six quartets making up Op. 18, and has a formal oddity or two, most notably the lack of a true slow movement. There's only the brief slow introduction to the second movement's Allegro. The work received a graceful, poised, and witty performance. The players emphasized its transparency and played with notable attention to dynamic details and articulation. The silences in the second movement's introduction were perfectly timed, giving them surprising weight and meaning. Frustratingly, first violinist Simin Ganatra had pitch problems in some high positions, the only significant flaw in the performance. For the Smetana, the Pacifica adopted a considerably more robust approach, in keeping with the heartier character of the music. The players' tone thickened and became weightier, and their fortes were louder than in the Beethoven. This sometimes bogged down the music. The slow third movement, which featured a highly dramatic cello solo, beautifully played by Brandon Vamos, needed sharper articulation and less of a wash-of-sound approach. The last movement, marked Vivace, would have worked better if played faster or in a style that made it feel fleeter. Moreover, despite the increased weight and volume, the sound didn't seem to intensify or make more of an impact than the lighter sound used for the Beethoven and Carter quartets. The dry acoustics of Dinkelspiel Auditorium certainly didn't help, though it also seemed that in her solos Ganatra wasn't able to generate enough volume. The second movement, Allegro moderato à la polka, presented special problems for the quartet. You could hear how hard the players tried to capture the particular metrical lifts of Czech dances, but their linguistic accent wasn't quite right. It was difficult to tell whether the movement was a straightforward polka or a parody of a dance-hall band.