A First Goodbye to a Departing Violinist
By Steve Smith
The Juilliard String Quartet, among the most august and respected of American chamber music institutions, began a farewell of sorts before a sizable audience at Alice Tully Hall on Tuesday night. It was no occasion for remorse: the quartet, which celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2006, will go on. But Joel Smirnoff, the first violinist, was making one of two final appearances with the group before departing to become president at the Cleveland Institute of Music.
The configuration featured on Tuesday was not the group's original lineup: Mr. Smirnoff, who joined in 1986, became the first violinist when Robert Mann, one of the founding members, retired in 1997. Ronald Copes, the second violinist, joined at that time. Samuel Rhodes, the violist, came aboard in 1969; Joel Krosnick, the cellist, in 1974.
But this particular alignment has had more than a decade to develop its own chemistry, and it showed in occasionally rough-hewn while always authoritative and lively performances. The program opened with Mendelssohn's Quartet in E flat (Op. 12), in honor of that composer's bicentennial.
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