In classical music terms, one quartet plus one quartet equals an octet. You can hear that mathematical formula for yourself when the American String Quartet is joined by the Ariel String Quartet for a Candlelight Concert Society program on Saturday, Jan. 28 at 8 p.m. in Howard Community College's Smith Theatre.
Actually, most of the program is devoted to the American String Quartet performing on its own. This venerable ensemble will have no problem occupying the stage. Formed in 1974 by musicians who were students at New York's Juilliard School, the group got off to a fast start when it won the Naumburg Chamber Music Award and Coleman Competition.
They've had busy touring seasons ever since then, but remain a New York-based quartet comprised of violinists Peter Winograd and Laurie Carney, violist Daniel Avshalomov and cellist Wolfram Koessel.
These four musicians have been quartet in residence at the Manhattan School of Music since 1984; of course, in the summer they head to Colorado, where they have been quartet in residence at the Aspen Music Festival since 1974.
The upcoming Candlelight program highlights the strengths of the American String Quartet. One of the pieces it's doing, for instance, is Mozart's Quartet No. 17 in B-Flat Major, K. 458 "Hunt."
It's a reminder that this group has thoroughly explored the classical repertory, having performed the complete quartets of Schubert, Beethoven, Bartok, Schoenberg and Mozart. Where Mozart is concerned, the group's recordings include a CD of his music performed on a matched set of Stradivarius instruments.
Besides its extensive performance of this traditional repertory, the American String Quartet also likes to do contemporary classical music. Over the years, they've commissioned new pieces from composers including George Tsontakis, Tobias Picker and Richard Danielpour. This affinity for the music of today will be reflected on the Candlelight program by a performance of Joan Tower's Quartet No. 1, "Night Fields."
Yet another musical trait is that this group plays well with others. In fact, the American String Quartet has collaborated with more than 130 soloists and groups, including pianists Richard Goode and Emanuel Ax, violinist Jonathan Carney, cellist Lynn Harrell, clarinetist Richard Stoltzman, vocalist Phyllis Bryn-Julson, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York City Ballet.
For its Columbia performance of Mendelssohn's Octet in E-flat Major, Op. 20, the American String Quartet will be joined by the Ariel String Quartet. Originally from Israel, the Ariel consists of violinists Gershon Gerchikov and Alexandra Kazovsky, cellist Amit Even-Tov and violist Sergey Tarashchansky. They're versatile with both traditional and contemporary classical music.
Ariel has won critical praise from the likes of the American Record Guide, which called it "a consummate ensemble gifted with utter musicality and remarkable interpretive power."
Recently named string quartet in residence at the University of Cincinnati's Conservatory of Music, Ariel has gained the credentials to make it a fitting partner for the American String Quartet on a Columbia stage.
The American String Quartet and Ariel String Quartet perform on Saturday, Jan. 28 at 8 p.m. in Smith Theatre at Howard Community College, 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway in Columbia. Tickets are $30, $28 for seniors, $12 for students. Call 410-997-2324 or go to http://www.candlelightconcerts.org.