For three of the members of the Lyric Piano Quartet, Sunday's concert in Pepperdine University's Smothers Theatre was a kind of homecoming, since each had at some point called Los Angeles home.
And what a homecoming it was. The quartet offered not only stunning accuracy and faultless precision of ensemble, but also spellbinding intensity, incandescent passion and soaring lyricism.
The heavily Romantic agenda afforded many opportunities for these qualities. Faure's G-minor Quartet, full of sudden changes of mood, proved an effective vehicle for the New-York based ensemble to convey an usually wide expressive range. It also showcased the warmth and sensitivity with which violinist Glenn Dicterow, violist Karen Dreyfus, cellist James Kreger and pianist Gerald Robbins perform.
Dicterow, local listeners will recall, served as the Philharmonic's associate concertmaster (later the word associate was dropped) under Zubin Mehta and in 1980 joined the New York Philharmonic as concertmaster.
The cellist and pianist, too, spent part of their early careers in Los Angeles, especially Robbins, a Los Angeles native who made regular Southland appearances for two decades. Along with violist Dreyfus, the four make an unusually synergetic, interpretively unified ensemble.
That was as evident in Dvorak's Quartet in E-flat, Opus 87, as it was in Faure. Exhibiting apt instincts for drama and a fine grasp of musical architecture, the ensemble brought to the work an ideal combination of vitality and restraint, intelligently pacing the work so as to maximize its emotional impact.
The group also offered an energized reading of Mahler's tempestuous "Quartettsatz," an early work that could well have been deleted from this generous program.
The New Yorkers opened the proceedings by delivering an utterly persuasive argument for Beethoven's Quartet in D. Without sacrificing one whit of polish or refinement, they brought probing insight, dynamic vigor, and stirring heroism to the 1785 work.