The Candlelight Concert Society brings a lot of internationally acclaimed classical musicians to Columbia, which means that a short local drive can bring you to a world of great music.
Some of these musicians are longtime audience favorites here, while others are making the trip to Howard County for the first time. Among the latter, count the Doric String Quartet. In fact, this British ensemble will make its Baltimore-area debut when it performs on Saturday, Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. at Howard Community College's Smith Theatre.
Formed in 1998, the Doric String Quartet got a major career boost when it won first place in the 2008 Osaka International Chamber Music Competition. Active performers and educators on the London music scene, the group was appointed Teaching Quartet in Association at the Royal Academy of Music in 2015.
Although the United Kingdom qualifies as home territory, the Doric actually spends much of its time on the road. It often appears in such musically savvy cities as Berlin, Amsterdam and Vienna; for that matter, its tours have taken it as far away as Australia.
The group’s tours to the United States have included stops at the Library of Congress in Washington. By way of additional prestige bookings on this side of the pond, the Doric made its Carnegie Hall debut in New York City in 2017.
Comprised of violinists Alex Reddington and Ying Xue, violist Helene Clement, and cellist John Myerscough, the group also gets its music out to the public via its numerous recordings on Chandos Records.
One of the composers that it frequently records, Franz Joseph Haydn, also happens to be represented on the Doric String Quartet’s upcoming Columbia program.
Haydn’s String Quartet in B-flat Major, No. 4, Op. 33 was composed by that prolific Austrian composer in 1781. It belongs to a set of six pieces commonly known as his “Russian” quartets because the composer dedicated them to the Grand Duke Paul of Russia. Indeed, these quartets were given their first performances for the Duke’s wife in her Vienna apartment.
The second piece on the Candlelight program is Benjamin Britten’s String Quartet No. 3, Op. 94. Considered this British composer’s last important composition, it was completed in 1975. Britten died the following year.
Audience members familiar with his career will have an emotional moment of recognition near the conclusion of this five-movement piece. In its final movement, “Recitative and Passacaglia (La Serenissima),” Britten musically quotes from his own 1973 opera “Death in Venice.” Clearly, he sensed that his own end was near.
With that contemplative notion in mind, the musicologist Brian Hogwood has observed: “The third quartet, then, is where Britten officially takes his leave. A handful of works would follow, but this is the moment where he gives up his soul, in music of affecting beauty. The last movement ensures he leaves with his head held high, innovating and captivating to the very end.”
The third piece on the Candlelight program is Felix Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in E minor, Op. 44, No. 2. Composed in 1837, it has the light and confident tone of a composer who was just then coming into his creative maturity.
Mendelssohn is a name that means a great deal to the members of the Doric String Quartet, because last year they assumed artistic directorship of the Mendelssohn on Mull Festival. This festival mentors young professional performers of string chamber music, ensuring that the classical music stars of tomorrow will get solid training today.
The Doric String Quartet performs on Saturday, Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. at Howard Community College’s Smith Theatre, 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway in Columbia. Tickets are $35, $12 for students. Also, each paying adult may get a free ticket for one child ages 9- 17. Call 410-997-2324 or go to candlelightconcerts.org