Polinger Artists of Excellence Concert Series at the JCCGW, Washington, D.C., March 2015

"FINE ARTS QUARTET: LIKE WELCOMING AN OLD FRIEND. The ensemble's concert at the JCCGW was at once familiar and powerful.

The first half of the Fine Arts Quartet concert at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington on Sunday felt like settling into a pair of comfortable old slippers.

New players may replace older ones from time to time (cellist Robert Cohen and violist Juan-Miguel Hernandez joined less than two years ago), but the quartet’s well-seasoned culture has endured. Violinists Ralph Evans and Efim Boico, who have been playing together for more than 32 years, are supremely well matched. Their soft-edged tone and phrasing define a “Fine Arts” sound that Cohen has picked up and that Hernandez accommodates himself to when he isn’t lavishing his gorgeous warm sound on a particularly juicy solo phrase.

They treated Mozart’s String Quartet in A, K. 464, like an old friend — its first movement a gentle and amiable welcome, a somewhat subdued third movement Andante and a playful finale handled with a jaunty light touch. Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge, Op. 133, sounded more determined than insistent, with a steady energy that seemed to be trying to impose order on the composer’s flailing instead of reveling in it.

The second half of the program, however, brought out a passionate side of the ensemble that took on the romantic urgency of Tchaikovsky’s String Quartet No. 2, Op. 22, with an urgency of its own. The musicians’ first movement rubatoes lingered tantalizingly, long crescendos built with both power and tenderness, and the galloping finale, with its slithering chromaticisms and fugal playfulness, was a refreshing palate-cleanser.

(Joan Reinthaler, Washington Post, March 9, 2015).