Czech quartet at Wilde Lake

April 25, 2008|By Sarah Hoover | Sarah Hoover,special to the sun

When the Prague-based Pavel Haas Quartet performs Czech classical music in Howard County this weekend, it continues the mission begun by composers Dvorak and Janacek to bring their lyrical folk-inspired national music to a wider international audience.

Sponsored by Candlelight Concerts, the quartet will present music by Smetana, Dvorak, and Janacek at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at the Wilde Lake Interfaith Center.

The Pavel Haas Quartet (Veronika Jaruskova and Maria Fuxova, violins; Pavel Nikl, viola; and Peter Jarusek, cello) is currently touring the United States under the auspices of the European Concert Hall Organization's Rising Stars series, and has been selected as one of the BBC New Generation Artists.

The group takes its name from a Czech composer imprisoned at Terezin during World War II. Undeterred by Nazi oppression, Pavel Haas was part of a community of musicians who continued to compose and perform within the concentration camp. Days after being featured in a 1944 Nazi propaganda film, the performers were transported to Auschwitz and killed.

Tomorrow's program offers a retrospective of Czech quartet literature, opening with Janacek's 1923 String Quartet No. 1. Inspired by Tolstoy's 1889 novel Kreutzer Sonata, in which a man murders his wife in a jealous rage after she performs Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata with a violinist, Janacek's quartet echoes the original Beethoven sonata in its third movement.

Dvorak's Quartet No. 12 in F Major, often called the "American" quartet, was one of several works the composer wrote for performance during his 1892-1894 residence in the United States. It is simple, brief, and lyrical; impressed by the beauty of the landscape in Iowa and the native musical traditions he heard on his travels, he wrote that "I should never have written these works `just so' if I hadn't seen America."

Smetana's String Quartet No. 1 in D minor of 1876, subtitled by the composer "From My Life," was an attempt by the composer to create, in his words, "a tone-picture of my life." The Allegro vivo appassionato of the first movement and second movement's polka depicted his exuberant youth, while the advent of his catastrophic deafness was signaled in music by a high-pitched note reminiscent of the ringing in his ears preceding his loss of hearing.

While the works featured on tomorrow's program represent only a fraction of Czech chamber works, Pavel Haas Quartet's devotion to this literature promises to offer Howard County concertgoers a unique interpretation of this literature. The quartet plans to record all three of Haas' string quartets as part of its ongoing commitment to Czech music.

Tickets for tomorrow's concert are $29, $26 for seniors, and $12 for students and are available at www.candlelight concerts.org or 443-367-3122.

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