Tokyo String Quartet

For a long time the Tokyo String Quartet, with their crisp, brittle playing and fierce intellectualism, sounded like the Juilliard Quartet. In fact violist Kazuhide Isomura and cellist Sadao Harada studied at Juilliard under the Juilliard Quartet’s founder, Robert Mann. But these days, almost three decades after their debut, the Tokyo String Quartet’s sound tends to remind me of the Budapest Quartet; the probing intelligence has remained but the playing is mellower and looser, with more emphasis on the emotions. The change might be due to the leadership of first violinist Peter Oundjian, the quartet’s only non-Japanese, non-Juilliard-trained member. At this Ravinia Festival outing, however, Andrew Dawes, a founding member of the well-regarded, now-defunct Orford String Quartet, takes over for Oundjian, who’s recuperating from a hand injury. Dawes is expected to be faithful to the present-day Tokyo String Quartet’s stylistic approach, here applied to three standards that follow the uninspired classical-romantic-contemporary programming formula. I expect harrowing intensity in Shostakovich’s Eighth Quartet and pretty pointillism in Ravel’s String Quartet. But one measure of a great quartet is how well its members collaborate with outsiders (in addition to Dawes, pianist Claude Frank will join the group for one piece, Mozart’s Piano Quartet no. 1). Monday, 8 PM, Martin Theatre, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park; 728-4642.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo of Tokyo String Quartet by Christian Steiner.