This year the Tokyo String Quartet is trying out a new first violinist–the third in its almost 30 year existence: Peter Oundjian, who lasted 15 years in the job, has been replaced by Mikhail Kopelman from the Borodin Quartet. Such a transition–especially in the first chair, more often than not the soul and brain of a quartet–usually ushers in a shift, however slight, in sound and interpretive approach. The Juilliard Quartet, a mentor to the Tokyo back in the early 70s, revitalized itself with each new incarnation (though admittedly the overwhelming artistic vision until early this season was that of Robert Mann, its founder and first violinist). When Oundjian, a Canadian-born disciple of Itzhak Perlman, joined the Tokyo in 1981 as its first non-Japanese member, he steered his colleagues away from a tendency to emulate the Juilliard. Under his influence the Tokyo’s sound was mellower, more lyrical and introspective–sort of a cross between the Juilliard and the Budapest. It was distinctive enough to earn the quartet’s recent Beethoven cycle (on RCA Victor) a place alongside all three of the Juilliard’s sets. Kopelman is sure to assert his own personality–and it’ll be interesting to see what it is and how it unfolds, though I suspect that at this point the Tokyo, like most boomer quartets, is more a committee of equals than its elders. These two programs (to be performed with pianist and Ravinia maestro Christoph Eschenbach, violist Atar Arad, and cellist Gary Hoffman) are fairly standard, but it’s always edifying to hear indisputably great chamber works (Smetana’s From My Life Quartet on Wednesday, and Beethoven’s Quartet no. 2 and Brahms’s Piano Quintet in F Minor on Thursday) performed by masters who get a kick out of performing them. Wednesday and Thursday, 8 PM, Martin Theatre, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park; 773-728-4642. TED SHEN

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Christian Steiner.