Classical quartet features clarinet soloist at Rackham

BY COLLEEN COX

Published January 20, 2006

Since its 1969 creation at the Julliard School of Music, the Tokyo String Quartet has stood as one of the top classical collectives in the world. This Saturday at 8 p.m. in Rackham Auditorium, the quartet returns to Ann Arbor for the first time since 1998 to astound audiences yet again, featuring performances of works by Hayden and Dvorak, along with a special joint performance with accomplished clarinetist Sabine Meyer.

Violinists Kazuhide Isomura, Kikuei Ikeda and Martin Beaver, along with cellist Clive Greensmith, are all regarded as masters of their fields and currently enjoy their quartet-in-residence status at Yale University, where they are also faculty.

When the quartet was first created, all four members were Japanese students at Julliard. Considered the first all-Japanese classical quartet, the group's interpretation of works by Western masters through non-Western perspectives opened new facets of the music, quickly garnering the quartet acclaim in the world of classical music.

But as time passed, members left and new members from all over the world took their place. This diversity of musical backgrounds only enriches the experience of listening to them perform.

Clarity and ingenuity are key to the quartet; each member recognizes the differences of his peers and uses that knowledge to liven the classical pieces the ensemble performs. With only four, sometimes five, instruments, each musician is continually in the spotlight.

Without a large orchestra to deliver a full sound and compensate for mistakes a single performer may make, the members of the quartet understand the necessity of cohesiveness and cooperation to a sound performance.

Sitting in as a guest soloist, Sabine Meyer's skill as a clarinetist offers a wonderful compliment to the string quartet. The clarinet, while traditional in classical music, is not often seen as a solo instrument, meaning Meyer and the quartet will attempt to place their own mark on the classical pieces they will perform. Her musical abilities have led her to perform with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in Munich.

The Tokyo String Quartet promises a fresh take on the works of the old masters - and some of the younger ones as well - giving the classical genre a breath of originality that's crucial for any style of music to be successful. The lists of credentials for the musicians set to perform at Rackham are long, and the high level of professionalism within the group promises a worthwhile concert.

The Tokyo String Quartet
Saturday at 8 p.m.
Tickets $20-$42
At Rackham