The Budapest Quartet finally gave Cambridge a break last night. For many seasons it had confined itself to standard concert fare whenever it performed in this area. This may be a good thing, but hearing only acknowledged master-pieces for long periods is like going out with the same girl all the time: you begin to wonder. This year the Quartet played not one, but two novelties, and the concert, while not exactly earth-shaking, was pleasant and relaxing.
Joseph Roisman, the first violinist, could not appear because of a band injury, so Jac Gorodetzky, Boris Kroyt, and Mischa Schneider were joined by pianist Arthur Balsam. The noted accompanist proved himself to be equally adept as an cuscmble performed.
The program opened with Beethoven's Quartet in E flat. Originally composed for piano, bassoon, oboc, clarinet, and French horn, the work in its recast piano quartet form still shows signs of woodwind writing. Nevertheless, it is a sprightly, tuneful piece with more than a few melodic and harmonic surprises worthy of the later Beethoven. The performance was fresh, idiomatic and perfect in every way. Balsam's personality seemed to be the dominating one. The group followed his beat, not Gorodzky's, and the piano part was emphasized whenever possible.
Dohnayi's Screnade in C, for violin, viola, and cello, is a delightfully original work, full of truth and good humor. The third movement, with its nonsensical chattering between violin and viola punctuated by the lugubrious comments of the cello, gently satirizes the typical Nineteenth Century but is at the same time good music in its own right. The versatile who had sounded in the Beethoven, changed their tone for Dohnanyi; clarify gave way to richness, and relaxed give and take took the place of precision.