For the first time in seventeen years, the Pacifica Quartet performed at the University of Chicago Friday night not as one of the University’s ensembles-in-residence. Their appearance at Mandel Hall was the final event of UC Presents’ “Classic Concert Series,” and the four members delivered the goods in a substantial program of repertory staples.
The Pacifica began the evening with Mozart’s Quartet in D Minor, K. 421, the only one of the so-called “Haydn Quartets” in a minor key. The four players—first violinist Simin Ganatra, second violinist Sibbi Bernhardsson, violist Masumi Per Rostad, and cellist Brandon Vamos—took a spacious approach to the opening Allegro moderato that allowed them to highlight its subtle harmonic shadings to great effect. The ensuing Andante, by contrast, had a lyrical, narrative quality evocative of Mozart’s vocal writing.
The Menuetto’s many dotted pick-up rhythms had consistent snap, underscoring the movement’s martial aspect, and the coquettish Trio sparkled with coy playing from Ganatra. (Ganatra announced last year that she would be leaving the quartet, but apparently—and fortunately—has had a change of heart.) The closing Allegro ma non troppo is a series of variations of a lilting sarabande, and the Pacifica persuasively plumbed its darker hues.