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String Quartets to the Fore

The Escher String Quartet.

String quartet lovers are offered a feast this week

Is the string quartet the classical music form that has inspired the most innovative classical music composers to their most inwardly revealing, intellectually satisfying compositions? Given the wealth of the classical string quartet repertoire, beginning with that of Haydn, the prolific inventor of the form, and including only Mozart and Beethoven, a very strong case might be made that this is the case.

Factor in just a few of the composers who were dedicated devotees of the string quartet form after the time of that unsurpassed triumvirate of musical genius—a bit flowery, perhaps, but, yet still an unarguably true statement—and the proposition holds true: i.e., Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Brahms, Bartok, and Shostakovich. This list does not include any of the post World War II generation “serious” composers, almost all of whom have felt the compelling necessity to compose one or more string quartets, and an incredible number of whom are in debt to that genuine force of nature, Irwin Arditti, first violinist of the eponymous Arditti String Quartet, a group which has offered the impeccably focused premieres and thus sponsored the promulgation of a mind-bogglingly enormous number of contemporary new string quartets, often of the most recondite nature.

Buffalo Chamber Music Society

The program to presented by the very young members of the Escher Quartet on Tuesday, February 19 at 8pm, as the next installment in the venerable Buffalo Chamber Music Society’s Tuesday evening series in the Mary Seaton Music Room of Kleinhans Music Hall, offers a nicely judged selection of the string quartet medium’s possibilities, including the interesting ramifications when another, alien instrument is added to the mix. Formed in 2005, the Escher String Quartet takes its name from Dutch graphic artist M. C. Escher and draws inspiration from the artist’s method of interplay between individual components working together to form a whole. Having completed a three-year residency as artists of one of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center programs, the ensemble has performed at prestigious venues and festivals around the world including Alice Tully Hall, the 92nd Street Y, and Symphony Space in New York, the Kennedy Center, and the Louvre, Ravinia, and Caramoor Festivals. This year, the Escher Quartet continues their relationship with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, curating and performing a series of concerts celebrating the 100th anniversary of British composer Britten’s 1913 birth.

Their Buffalo appearance will include the first BCMS performance in 30 years of Britten’s String Quartet No. 3, Op. 54, performed only once previously in this series, by the Vermeer Quartet in 1983. The program includes Mozart’s Quartet in E Flat Major, K 428, one of the more popular offerings in the BCMS’s long history, having made nine previous appearances in the series, the most recent by the Belcea Quartet in 2005. Making its series debut is the Piano Quintet in F Sharp Minor, Op. 67, by the pioneering American female composer Amy Beach, who studied piano with several prominent teachers but was almost entirely self-taught in composition. Pianist Benjamin Hochman joins the members of the Escher Quartet in a performance of Beach’s 1908 work, which moves from its dark, brooding adagio introduction, through a deceptively low-key, yet intensely burning adagio espressivo, culminating in the forcefully dramatic climax of the final allegro agitato.

For tickets and more information, visit

Slee Beethoven Cycle returns to UB

Besides the Buffalo Chamber Music Society’s long-running series—the second longest such in the entire country—the venerable Slee Cycle yearly series of the complete string quartets of Beethoven performed at the University at Buffalo, due to the far-sighted legacy of Frederick and Alice Slee, is the longest continuous chamber music series in Western New York. More than that, the offering on a yearly basis of Beethoven’s entire, unsurpassed contribution to the string quartet repertoire for well over a half-century is a cultural benefit that no other city in the world enjoys. The Jupiter String Quartet presented the first and second concerts of the Slee/Beethoven String Quartet Cycle last season to great acclaim, and they are back this season to present the third and fourth concerts of the cycle, at 7:30pm in Slee Hall, on the UB Amherst Campus. The Friday, February 22 concert includes the Quartet in D Major, Op. 18, No. 3, the “Grosse Fuge,” Op. 133, and the first of the Razumovsky quartets, the Quartet in F Major, Op. 59, No.1. The Sunday, February 24 concert features the Quartet in F Minor, Op. 95 “Serioso,” the Quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 18, No. 6, and the Quartet in A Minor, Op. 132. A master class, free and open for public observation, will be held on Saturday, February 23, 11am-1pm, in Baird Recital Hall.

For tickets and more information, call 645-2921 or visit

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