The four blond men with the three blond beards who made a hit at Menlo a few years ago, and whom I subsequently reviewed in Berkeley, are back, with what the presenter proudly advertised as their first San Francisco performance - their previous local concerts were outside the city limits, so you can technically get away with this claim.
They played the Bartok First in a late-late-Romantic style, making it sound garrulous, and the First Razumovsky* in a proto-proto-modernist style, making it sound choppy. Though I admit the Adagio molto hit a level of profundity that would do credit to Op. 132.
The program was filled out with the quartet's own arrangements of a series of Danish, Norwegian, and Faroese folk songs. The arrangements were delicate and tentative, with light vibrato-less melodies over one or two lines of counterpoint or soft chords. Listening to these made me feel as if I were relaxed at the Freight instead of tense at Herbst.
Through all of this, seated behind me were a pair of young boys who, from the noises they were making, were thunderously bored. Why were they there at all? This was not a beginners' program.
*If the Bartok First is the first quartet by Bartok, is the First Razumovsky the first quartet by Razumovsky? No, it's the first of three by Beethoven that were commissioned by and dedicated to Count Razumovsky, and they're just called that for convenience's sake. Classical snobs expect each other to know things like this. The Paganini Rhapsody isn't by Paganini either.