This seems to be turning into a golden age for string quartets, with such extraordinary young American ensembles as the Borromeo, Brentano, Parker, Jupiter, and Daedalus quartets performing all over the world. The Rockport concert included Richard Wernick's String Quartet No. 8, composed for Daedalus and introduced by them last year. Its four movements demonstrate skillful writing in a maybe too-familiar, gray atonality — full of violently energetic outbursts and moments of interior calm, but largely unmemorable. The second movement seemed the most original, with its identical legato theme and pizzicato accompaniment proceeding simultaneously at two completely different tempos.
The program opened with a radiant performance of one of the miracles of string quartet literature, Mozart's very last quartet, K. 590 in F major. I loved the way the players were engaged in this musical "conversation," listening to and answering each other in five-note or two-note phrases. Consoling, tender, witty, unforgettably melodic, this great work has just about everything you could want in a string quartet, and so did the performance.