The Jerusalem Quartet’s ‘cultivated’ Beethoven

Cycles of Beethoven quartets come and go, but it was a real pleasure to be sent what I hope is the first volume of a new series from the Jerusalem Quartet. The quartet may be as well known in the wider world for its political affiliation with the state of Israel as for its music-making, but when I met them for an interview some years ago, I found them completely focused on the music at hand – when, that is, they weren’t exchanging banter like any other bunch of early-30-something men who spend too much time with each other.

The Jerusalem Quartet, making a promising start to a Beethoven cycle for harmonia mundi. Photo: courtesy of harmonia mundi

The Jerusalem Quartet, making a promising start to a Beethoven cycle for harmonia mundi. Photo: courtesy of harmonia mundi

They’re older now, and you can tell that in this Beethoven, which they have waited years to record – they gave their first concert together in 1993 – but I think you can tell that they are friends too, unlike some famous quartets of old, who did not so much sublimate festering psychological conflicts as bury them deep beneath the surface of their playing.

The Jerusalem Quartet members bring their own cultivated blend to these extraordinary works without either dampening their novelty or introducing anachronistic mannerisms: they respect the set’s turn-of-the-19th-century identity but also its internal diversity. Listen to the neatly turned first movement of op.18 no.2 to hear these players at ease with themselves, comfortable within a chosen style but always on the lookout for what Beethoven has in store.

You can read the rest of my review for The Strad here.