Candlelight Concert Society to open season with quartet


Howard Live


Concert managers always try to open the season with a bang, and the Candlelight Concert Society of Columbia has got some fine fireworks waiting in the wings for its first concert of the 2005-2006 season. The opening concert takes place at 8 p.m. tomorrow when the Mendelssohn String Quartet performs music by Mendelssohn, Ligeti and Dvorak.

Fireworks in chamber music are not the kind that make big bangs, but they can produce many "aaaahs" and "ooooohs." This will be a colorful program. The Mendelssohn String Quartet, in residence for nine years at Harvard University, begins the concert with an andante and scherzo by its namesake composer. Mendelssohn wrote these movements shortly before he died, and they are serious and playful, in turn, and thoroughly charming.

Also, they are rarely performed, and thus offer the audience members a rare treat.

Gyorgy Ligeti's String Quartet No. 1, composed in 1953-1954, is a 20-minute work that is indebted to the six Bartok string quartets in many ways, including the use of the Bartok pizzicato (a sharp snap of the string against the fingerboard), the eerie sounds of Bartokian night music (very soft sounds bowed on the fingerboard, rather than the bridge of the string instruments), and highly chromatic lines that wend their way sinuously through many of the movements. The composition has 17 short movements of varied tempi and mood. It is a kaleidoscope of colors and sounds.

Jonathan Biss is a 24-year-old pianist who has established his credentials in orchestral and recital performances throughout the world.

He joins the Mendelssohn Quartet for the final piece on the program, Dvorak's Quintet for Piano and String Quartet in A Major, Opus 81. This is probably the sunniest, most rollicking piano quintet ever written, although it also has beautiful, poignant melodies. The opening of the first movement, for cello with piano accompaniment, is simple but inspiring. This piece is a joy for listeners and performers. Its buoyant melodies and rhythms are captivating. The finale, marked allegro, is busy and sensational, with interesting, off-beat accents that surprise and delight.

The final moments are a gradual but unstoppable accelerando, and the performers play faster and faster, whipping themselves and their listeners into a frenzy before the final chords and guaranteeing cheers from the audience when they finish.

To hear the fireworks, or the free preconcert event at 6:45 p.m. -- "Meet the Artists and the Music" -- come to Smith Theatre on the campus of Howard Community College. Information or tickets: 410-480-9950, or Candlelight Concert Society at candlelightconcerts. org.

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