No surprise that the church was chockablock packed for the Johannes Quartet’s concert Sunday October 25 – over 250 in the audience, with overflow onstage seating “Lincoln Center-style” – in the choir! The community came out en masse to hear our beloved Soovin Kim. He played like an angel — his violin sang sweetly and soared loftily. It was an exciting performance also because it was the debut for the quartet’s new second violin Julianne Lee. The program gave her good opportunity to impress all with her skill – no shrinking musical violet she! Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Homunculus opened the concert. Written expressly for the Johannes Quartet, it is a mightily challenging work, but they have been performing it for eight years now and it has become internalized to such a degree it seems a force of nature, its intensity throbs and surges with relentless sweeping energy and power – totally exciting!
Showing a completely contrasting mood and style, next came Mozart’s String Quartet No. 15 in D Minor, K. 421, played with such wafting delicacy and caressing sweetness, and following intermission, Brahms’s String Quartet No. 3 in B-flat Major, op. 67, which gave the lower voices of CJ Chang’s viola and Peter Stumpf’s cello loose reins to express with luscious tawny tones. Arnold Steinhardt, first violinist of the legendary Guarneri String Quartet, said it most eloquently: “The Johannes String Quartet, comprising four impressively gifted instrumentalists in their own right, have come together to form one of the great chamber music groups of our time. They play with technical polish, with deep musical understanding, and with uncommon inspiration. The Johannes is all I could ever dream of in a string quartet.”