After almost five decades in the business, the Juilliard String Quartet is still one of the freshest-sounding groups around. The remarkable longevity of the Juilliard School’s (and the Library of Congress’s) resident quartet can be attributed to founder Robert Mann’s sense of artistic coherence and fierce commitment–and to his uncanny ability to select just the right people to succeed departing members. Mann knows well how to develop and when to respect a new member’s personality, as he’s done with the latest addition, violinist Joel Smirnoff. One result has been that while each generation of the quartet may sound slightly different, its interpretative skills remain top-notch. A Juilliard String Quartet performance is bound to be loose yet edgy, thought provoking yet persuasive. And more and more followers seem to agree that the current roster is the best one yet. Of the nearly 500 works in the group’s repertoire, the Beethoven and Bartok cycles occupy an almost legendary perch–they’ve recorded the Beethoven five times, the Bartok three, each version illuminating the composer’s craftsmanship and architectonic scheme in its own way while probing deep into the emotional core. At this concert, kicking off the tenth season of the Chamber Music Society of the North Shore, two Beethovens and one Bartok are on the bill. The first and third Rasoumovsky Quartets (nos. 7 and 9) are from Beethoven’s crucial period of artistic consolidation (1804-’06), whereas Bartok’s anxiety-ridden Third is an exemplar of modernity. Sunday, 3 PM, Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, Northwestern University, 1977 South Campus Dr., Evanston; 708-835-5084.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jack Mitchell.