Because the venerable Juilliard Quartet has been admired for its musical probity and intellectual acuity for such a long time, it's been easy to forget that the ensemble, superior to all its competitors in music making, remains equally distinguished as a sound-making body.
Sunday afternoon, returning to the Coleman Chamber Concerts in a program of quartets by Schumann, Irving Fine and Mozart, the ensemble reminded us just how opulent and polished its collective sound can be, especially in performances of complete intensity and musical concentration.
The latest roster of the Juilliard Quartet has now been together as a unit for nearly 11 years. Violinists Robert Mann and Earl Carlyss, violist Samuel Rhodes and cellist Joel Krosnick reasserted their integrated mastery in as generous, probing, expansive, sweet-toned and coherent a performance of Mozart's Quartet in D, K. 499 ("Hoffmeister") as may be possible to achieve.
The four players delivered this seraphic and aggressive performance, closing its Beckman Auditorium program, without visible or aural strain. Then they shared, by way of encore, a Scherzo of Tchaikovsky. They lavished the same integrity upon Schumann's Quartet in F, Opus 41, No. 2, in a Valentine of a performance, at the top of the program.
In a revival of Irving Fine's String Quartet (1952), a work the Juilliard introduced and has never stopped championing, similarly affectionate and clarified treatment gave the tight-knit, troubled old piece an air of importance one is not sure it deserves.