Los Angeles quartet opens for Candlelight

Performance: Exhilarating exponent of chamber music to perform at HCC's Smith Theatre this weekend.

Howard Live

October 23, 2003|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The combination of violin, viola, cello and piano has inspired fewer compositions than the twin violin-viola-cello string quartet arrangement that has occupied virtually every composer of note since the mid-18th century.

But the composers drawn to this somewhat rare mini-symphonic format have been some of the greatest ever. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's two piano quartets are absolutely top-drawer. Johannes Brahms, Robert Schumann, Antonin Dvorak and Gabriel Faure are just a few of the others who have scaled the heights of the genre.

One the of the world's finest practitioners of this style, the Los Angeles Piano Quartet, opens Candlelight Concert Society's season Saturday evening in works by Mozart, Joaquin Turina and Ernest Chausson.

Founded in 1977, the Los Angeles Piano Quartet has taken its exhilarating brand of chamber music to major American cultural centers such as New York, Washington, San Francisco and Los Angeles, as well as to Amsterdam's Concertgebouw, the Musikhalle in Hamburg, Germany, and Rome's Academy of Santa Cecilia.

The quartet also has been an active force in the creation of new works for the piano quartet combination, commissioning new works from prominent contemporary composers such as Stephen Hartke and Gerard Schurmann, whose second piano quartet had its premiere by the ensemble at the 2000 Tucson Festival.

Quartet members are violinist Michi Wiancko, violist Katherine Murdock, cellist Peter Rejto and pianist Xak Bjerken.

Saturday's season-opener is anchored by Mozart's G minor Piano Quartet (K. 478).

While piano quartets had been written by other composers before Mozart came to the idiom with this G minor quartet in 1785, the earlier versions had placed the piano in a dominant role, accompanied sweetly by three rather innocuous strings.

Mozart changed all that by crafting a deeply personal, dramatic work that gives all four participants an equal voice in the proceedings.

Mozart uses the key of G minor to bring passion and a host of turbulent emotions to the surface, where they remain for the duration of this extraordinary quartet.

The Los Angeles ensemble also will perform the A minor Quartet of Joaquin Turina, a 20th-century Spanish composer whose works seldom stray far from the distinctive colors, rhythms and guitar riffs of his native Seville.

The Piano Quartet of Ernest Chausson, a French composer who learned his craft from Jules Massenet and Cesar Franck at the Paris Conservatoire, and died at the relatively young age of 44 in an 1899 cycling accident, rounds out the program.

Candlelight Concert Society begins its 31st season at 8 p.m. Saturday with the Los Angeles Piano Quartet performing the music of Mozart, Turina and Chausson at Smith Theatre on the campus of Howard Community College in Columbia. A free discussion with the artists precedes the concert at 6:30 p.m. General admission tickets are $29 at the door, $26 for senior citizens and $12 for students. Information: 410-480- 9950, or www.candlelight concerts.org.

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