Leah Hollingsworth visits the Weill Recital Hall, Carnegie Hall, NY, on 17 May 2023 for a performance of Golijov, Alberga, Beethoven and Walker


Ivalas Quartet. Photo: Maya Ballester

The Ivalas Quartet, the graduate resident quartet at the Juilliard School, presented a ‘space-inspired’ programme at Weill Recital Hall, opening with Golijov’s Tenebrae, a meditative work written after the composer’s visit to the NYC Planetarium with his son. Sensitive leading from Pedro Sánchez on cello and an impressive viola solo by Aimée McAnulty were highlights.

Jamaican composer Eleanor Alberga’s String Quartet no.1 followed, with a wonderful introduction by Sánchez that included demonstrations of the ‘fugue without a subject’ in the first movement, the portrayal of ‘solar winds’ in the Espressivo and Jamaican rhythms in the pizzicato of the finale. The group displayed an almost frenetic energy and real rhythmic fervour, making for a first half that was very well played, with fine attention to detail, though it could have been infused with more character.

Beethoven’s epic op.130 was poignantly introduced by McAnulty who reminded us all that ‘when we create something, we don’t know the life it will have’ as she discussed Beethoven’s legacy. This work offered a glimpse into what the Ivalas could do beyond mere technique, with playing of tremendous heart and beauty. The quartet’s sense of rubato and timing effectively conveyed the music’s spaciousness, while its commitment to dynamics – even extreme hairpins – was laudable, and I loved the gentle approach to the tempo of the fourth movement.

The Cavatina began quite intensely, before giving way to an almost surprising lightness of sound, which set up well the whimsy and buoyancy of the finale. The audience gave a standing ovation and the quartet returned with a gorgeous account of the slow movement of George Walker’s First String Quartet.