While period-instrument orchestras proliferate, the antiquarian string quartet remains a rarity. The only internationally active ensemble in the field is the London-based Salomon String Quartet, which made its Los Angeles debut at the Doheny Mansion on Friday under auspices of the Da Camera Society of Mount St. Mary's College.
Composed of violinists Simon Standage and Micaela Comberti, violist Trevor Jones and cellist Jennifer Ward Clarke--principals of The English Concert and Academy of Ancient Music--the Salomon presented wonderfully alert, clarifying performances of three works which, when played on modern instruments, would never be heard on the same program, what with 18th-Century music inevitably accorded the lowly warm-up position.
Thus, as finale--the position normally reserved for the blockbuster--we had Beethoven's first quartet, the grandly assertive and original work in B-flat of Opus 18, crowning a program that also included the "Hunt" Quartet of Mozart and, to open, Haydn's brilliantly quirky Quartet in C, Opus 54, No. 2.
While ample stylistic distinctions were made among the three compositions, the concert nonetheless emerged all of a splendid piece in which scholarship, technical polish and expressive vitality were ideally blended.