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Concert a reminder that modern classical music exists

Now into its 42nd season, the Candlelight Concert Society has brought music to the ears of Howard County residents for a long time. The chamber music ensembles it presents offer a wide variety of classical music, including pieces from the 20th and 21st Centuries reminding us that this is a living musical tradition.

That modern spirit epitomizes the Momenta String Quartet, which performs for Candlelight on Saturday, Jan. 10, at 8 p.m. at Howard Community College's Smith Theatre.

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As the String Quartet in residence at Temple University in Philadelphia, Momenta has been receiving its share of media attention. The magazine "Time Out New York," for instance, praised it as "an outstanding ensemble prone to innovation and exploration"; and another publication, "Sequenza21," stated that the group is filled with "... fire, fantasy and absolute musical commitment."

The recipients of that praise are the group's members: Emilie-Anne Gendron on violin, Adda Kridler on violin, Stephanie Griffin on viola and Michael Haas on cello.

Momenta has made a name for itself performing the music of living composers. Indeed, it has worked with 80 living composers; and, on a related note, it has given the premiere of more than 50 compositions.

This contemporary emphasis is not directly reflected in the group's upcoming Candlelight program, however, which explores earlier works that generally can be thought of as modern-oriented pieces that helped prepare the way for contemporary music.

The Candlelight program consists of Anton Webern's Langsamer Satz (slow movement) for string quartet (1905); Leo Janacek's String Quartet No. 1, "Kreutzer Sonata"; Julian Carrillo's Dos Bosquejos (Two Sketches: Meditacion and En Secreto) (1927); and Johannes Brahms' String Quartet in C minor Op. 51 No. 1.

Although Brahms was a 19th Century musical giant who looked back to Beethoven as much as he looked ahead, he was part of a vigorous music scene in Germany, Austria and elsewhere in Central Europe that amounted to a breeding ground in the late 19th century for younger composers who went on to transform classical music in the early 20th century.

The Viennese-born Webern, for example, helped modernize symphonic sound in the early 20th century; and the Czech composer Janacek, while best known for the operas "Jenufa" and "The Cunning Little Vixen," also composed chamber music that sounded fresh to the ears of early-20th-century audiences. It still sounds fresh when performed live today.

Momenta String Quartet performs on Saturday, Jan. 10, at 8 p.m. in Howard Community College's Smith Theatre, 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway in Columbia. Tickets are $32, $30 for seniors, $12 for students; students up to age 17 may receive one free ticket when accompanied by a paying adult. Call 410-997-2324 or go to http://www.candlelightconcerts.org

And it's not too soon to also look ahead to the following Candlelight program, which, coincidentally, also has a Philadelphia connection. A program titled "Curtis on Tour: Aizuri Quartet with Peter Wiley" takes place on Jan. 24 at 8 p.m. in Howard Community College's Smith Theatre. This young ensemble is the String Quartet in residence at Curtis Institute in Philadelphia for the 2014- 2015 season. The program delves deep into the classical music of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Among the pieces scheduled are Haydn's Quartet in B-flat Major, Hob.III:67; and Schubert's Quintet in C Major, D. 956.

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