The keystone of the program -- Schubert's Quartet No. 14 in D minor, D. 810 ("Death and the Maiden") -- provided all the proof one needed. In the second movement, soft passages were whisper-soft and stormy, menacing phrases became larger than life in the sudden gusts of threat they carried with them.

With details so well planned and coordinated, the Belcea could afford to give plausible impressions of feeling the drama as it went along, particularly in the first movement.

Making up this four-voiced oneness at its best was evident in the opening work, Haydn's Quartet in F-sharp minor, Op. 50, No. 4. The first and second violinists -- Corina Belcea-Fisher and Laura Samuel -- match superbly in style, articulation and tone. Sometimes, especially in 18th-century string quartets with their prominent first-violin parts, the greater sheen of the first violinist is all too obvious and may carry over into music that intends to spread the glory more evenly.

The cellist, Antoine Lederlin, can't seem to help being lyrical, even when playing pizzicato. This consistently gave the quartet's low voice a warmth that nuzzled up to the higher instruments. And you'd be hard put to find more subtly supportive, butter-smooth viola playing than Krzysztof Chorzelski's. Often you'd be watching him play, not sure you were hearing him, yet sensing that middle voice solidly enriching the quartet texture.

The Haydn paraded these virtues unobtrusively. They got more exuberant display in Prokofiev's Quartet No. 2 in F major. The Belcea's performance didn't miss a beat.
Jay Harvey,, March 12th 2009


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