A contemporary private residence--built in 1957--with spectacular views of city (downtown Los Angeles) and reservoir (Silver Lake) as the setting for the West Coast premiere of Elliott Carter's Fourth String Quartet? Perfect.
And so it nearly was, Sunday afternoon, at the top of a hill in Silver Lake, in a glass-and-brick showcase called Silvertop, that the Composers String Quartet brought the American composer's latest impenetrable musical edifice to Los Angeles.
What made the occasion--which was also the first event of 1987 on the much-loved Chamber Music in Historic Sites series--less than thrilling was the gloominess of the day, a rainy, cloudy, gray and melancholy afternoon which caused the view inside Silvertop House to be both dark and full of glare.
Acoustically, the ensemble--quartet in residence at Columbia University in New York City--sounded true, transparent and competent. Only the playing of the four instrumentalists sometimes approached a sobriety bordering on monotony. The quartet--violinists Matthew Raimondi and Anahid Ajemian, violist Jean Dane and cellist Mark Shuman--seemed to bring expertise and familiarity to Carter's newly tortured sounds, without producing a reading to make those sounds immediately apprehendable.