When they were 14, the Jerusalem Quartet were considered The Monkees of the classical world because they were “manufactured” by the Jerusalem Music Centre. Since then, with one change of personnel (violist Ori Kam replacing Amihai Grosz in 2010), they have established themselves in the top echelon of chamber groups. They continue their wide and impressive discography with this awe-inspiring reading of three of Béla Bartók’s six quartets. Led by the charismatic Alexander Pavlovsky, the Jerusalems are a tight, exciting unit, brilliant in attack but also uncannily sensitive. Sergei Bresler’s violin sparks off Pavlovksy’s and Kam is the equal of his predecessor in every respect.
Kyril Zlotnikov, playing one of Jacqueline du Pré’s instruments loaned to him by Daniel Barenboim, is a formidable cellist, driving and astute. Together they bring out every nuance of these awe-inspiring works, from the Fourth’s scurrying insect-like ‘night music’ of the prestissimo second movement to the heart-rending mesto finale of the Sixth, composed at a time when Bartók was down on his uppers and mourning his mother’s death.
The Jerusalems brought the house down when they played the Allegretto Pizzicato as an encore when they were here in 2016 on their seventh Musica Viva tour. Hopefully they will record the other three quartets. That would represent a signature set, worthy to rank alongside such classic recordings by the Juilliards, Emersons, Tokyo and Takács. But, ominously perhaps, there’s no “Vol. 1” on the cover.