The American String Quartet's concert will provide an opportunity to be swept away by three remarkable pieces of music at 4 p.m. Sunday at Smith Theatre at Howard Community College.
The American String Quartet, formed in 1974, has won critical acclaim for its performances of the classical string quartet repertoire and for its collaborations with distinguished contemporary composers. Sunday's program by quartet members Daniel Avshalomov (viola), Margo Tatgenhorst Drakos (cello), Peter Winograd and Laurie Carney (violins) will feature an early Beethoven quartet (Op. 18, No. 5), Richard Danielpour's Quartet No. 2, and Brahms' Op. 51, No. 1 quartet.
The Beethoven is a substantial opening work, sounding much closer to Mozart's quartets than to the quartets Beethoven composed later in his life. Throughout his first set of six quartets, published in 1801, Beethoven pays homage to Mozart's quartet writing, yet his distinctive fingerprints are abundantly audible in the short motives that generate movements, the dynamic range, the unexpected rhythmic accents and the adventurous harmonies.
Danielpour, born in 1956, has won many awards, and his music has been commissioned by such prestigious organizations as the New York Philharmonic and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. His music is tuneful and compelling.
His second string quartet, Shadow Dances, composed in 1992, has four movements: Stomping Ground, The Little Dictator, My Father's Song and The Trickster.
According to material from Candlelight Concert Society, which is presenting the event, the composer writes that "the first movement is a return to the child within, to the exuberance and uninhibited wonder, energy and sense of surprise that we experience as children. ...
"The second movement ... addresses the controller in us. The movement alternates between a driven, almost obsessive march and a gentler, more tender music.
"The third movement is actually music inspired by memories of my father's funeral. This adagio -- imbued with an air of mourning -- is the darkest of the movements in the quartet. The finale refers to the character that often appears in folklore and literature in various guises: the jester, the fool, the coyote, the clown."
Brahms' string quartets, though not as well-known as his symphonies, are most deserving of attention. He composed the Quartet in C Minor, his first published string quartet, at 40. It is filled with noble and beautiful themes, and it offers intimate access to his voice.
If you are a looking for a sweet Mother's Day treat, this one is delectable.
Information: Candlelight Concert Society, 410-480-9950, or candlelightconcerts.org.