The Jupiter String Quartet is the latest in a bumper crop of young talented classical ensembles to visit Buffalo as part of the Buffalo Chamber Music Society's "Gift to the Community" series. Its program not only paid homage to a pair of familiar historical masters -- Franz Joseph Haydn and Ludwig van Beethoven -- but also included the work of a composer not usually heard 'round here -- Henri Dutilleux.
Haydn's "Sunrise" string quartet is filled with delectable tunes and was a glorious way to start of the concert. The group's performance, likewise, was suitably warm and loving. This piece features a number of false endings: After a brief pause, just when the music sounds as if it might be winding up, the score starts up again, wending its way through a series of variations that take the music to an even more arresting place.
Still, it was just those small moments, those little breaks between phrases, that threw off some listeners unfamiliar with the work. A few members of the audience illustrated this unfamiliarity by applauding at the first pause and then after each movement, a faux pas at modern classical concerts but not a concept all that foreign to composers in earlier times where audiences sometimes would demand a repeat of a movement before allowing the piece to continue.
Before "Ainsi la nuit (Thus the Night)," Henri Dutilleux's only work for string quartet, Dan McDonough, the Jupiter String Quartet's cellist, presented a brief talk highlighting the various methods of tone production called for in the score, including playing close to the bridge, plucking the strings, bouncing the back of the bow off the strings, playing with harmonics and a slew of other techniques.
McDonough didn't mention that, just before writing his quartet, Dutilleux thoroughly studied quartets by Bela Bartok and Beethoven as well as key works by Anton Webern and Alban Berg, two composers who helped unleash the serial -- 12 tone -- method of composing into the world.
In any event, the Jupiter String Quartet seemed up to the challenges and delivered an arresting, intriguing performance that was well worth the effort.
The third of Beethoven's "Razumovsky" quartets, which brought the concert to a close, was played with the same commitment and skill lavished on the rest of the program, especially with regard to the speed and level of interplay demanded in the closing movement.
Jupiter String Quartet
Sunday in Kleinhans Music Hall's Mary Seaton Room.