LA JOLLA — In the best of all possible worlds, the string quartet is the crucible in which a composer's essential character is revealed. The Vermeer String Quartet brought white-hot passions to its Saturday night concert of Beethoven, Shostakovich and Dvorak, making Sherwood Auditorium the best of all possible musical worlds for an incredibly rich two hours.
Passion, of course, was only part of the Vermeer success story. Eloquence and insight, the ensemble's complementary virtues, contributed significantly to its riveting traversal of the Shostakovich Quartet No. 8 in C Minor.
Arguably an autobiographical portrait of the composer, the dense, five-movement piece composed in 1960 is a relentlessly probing account of struggle and suffering.
From the almost savage, raw energy of the "Allegro molto" to the uncanny stillness of the somber finale, Vermeer enveloped this wide emotional gamut with clean, well-focused playing of utmost conviction. Even though the work ends with two slow movements, this keenly paced performance kept the momentum racing to the somber final chord.