. . .The evening opened with the competition’s jaw-dropping group, the Ariel Quartet, founded in Jerusalem in 1998 and now residing in the USA. There’s a saying, “Don’t mess with Texas;” in Israel you don’t mess with music — it’s played with a concentration and intensity not found elsewhere.
Here were four players, each a consummate master, who captured all the “old world” qualities: long lyrical lines, the ability to shape not just phrases but single measures with breadth and nuance, and the ability to switch in Opus 77:1 from romantically lyrical lines to facetiousplayfulness with total musicality in the time it takes you to say “Haydn”. But it was their Bartok No. 4 that was the “Oh, that’s what it’s all about!” moment of the competition, when Amit Even-Tov played her cello solo in the third movement, revealing it as the heart of the entire work. The Ariel was simply beyond technique, a consummate ensemble gifted with utter musicality and remarkable interpretative power.
The Ariel’s performance of Beethoven’s No. 15 that not only left me paralyzed but made me feel the composer’s final acceptance of all that had been dealt him in life — I was hardly the only one who was so overwhelmed. It was thepinnacle of the competition.