Serenading with energy and intimacy

The Baltimore Sun

Travel south to Miami for the white beaches, winter sun, art deco and Cuban mojitos. But when it comes to first-rate chamber music, there's no need to pack the flip-flops - Miami exports one of the nation's finest string quartets. The Miami String Quartet is heading north and will perform at 8 p.m. tomorrow at Howard Community College's Smith Theatre, sponsored by the Candlelight Concert Society.

Candlelight's artistic director, Holly Thomas, said she was delighted to present these acclaimed artists in Smith Theatre, "a true chamber music setting" where performers "feel close enough to the audience to be able to relate to them."

Listeners will relish hearing an ensemble praised by critics for playing with energy and vitality in such an intimate space. This is chamber music at its best.

The Miami String Quartet (Ivan Chan, violin; Cathy Meng Robinson, violin; Chauncey Patterson, viola; and Keith Robinson, cello) has "everything one wants in a quartet," according to the New York Times; "a rich precisely balanced sound, a broad coloristic palette, real unity of artistic purpose and a seemingly unflagging energy." Currently quartet in residence at the Hartt School in Hartford, Conn., the quartet has also been in residence at Kent State University in Ohio, Florida International University, and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York.

Deeply committed to the performance of contemporary music, the ensemble seeks opportunities to commission new works: Its acclaimed third recording features the first three string quartets of Peteris Vasks. The group has also premiered works by composers including Augusta Reed Thomas, Maurice Gardner, Bruce Adolphe and Stephen Jaffe.

Tomorrow's program allows the quartet to demonstrate its musical breadth and adventurousness. Felix Mendelssohn's String Quartet No. 6 in F minor, Op. 80, composed in 1847, opens the program. Those expecting blithe, sunny Mendelssohn may be shocked to hear this discordant work, generally thought to be the composer's musical response to the sudden death of his beloved sister, Fanny. His four-movement lamentation, first agitated and turbulent, briefly melancholic and then again anguished, is an emotionally cathartic experience, gripping from the first bar.

The quartet will get to make its case for an important modern work, Alberto Ginastera's String Quartet No. 2, Op. 26, which has been a signature piece for the group since its 1994 Ginastera recording. This piece, an amalgamation of Argentine folk music and mid-century avant-garde serialism, put Ginastera on the musical map as a composer of international stature when it premiered in 1958. Thomas, eager to expose Candlelight's audiences to contemporary and unfamiliar works, anticipates that the Ginastera, with its infectious Latin rhythms, will be an audience-pleaser.

The evening's program concludes with the first of Peter Tchaikovsky's three string quartets, the String Quartet in D, Op. 11, written when the composer was 21. Without Russian models for the string quartet, Tchaikovsky turned to Schubert and Beethoven, whose influences can be heard in this tuneful work. The famous second movement (andante cantabile) is based on a folk song Tchaikovsky heard in 1869 (with ribald words); its simple lyricism so moved Leo Tolstoy that upon hearing it he promised to provide the composer with lyrics for what would become some of his most beautiful songs.

It will be well worth the trip to Smith Theatre to hear the Miami String Quartet - and no sunscreen is required.

The Miami String Quartet will coach aspiring performers in a master class for high school and college-aged students at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow in the Monteabaro Recital Hall of Howard Community College. Tickets are $5 for students with a school identification, and $10 for all others, and are available in advance by calling Benjamin Myers at 410-772-4801.

Tickets for tomorrow's concert are $29 for adults, $26 for those 60 and older, and $12 for full-time students younger than 24. Students 17 and younger will be admitted free when accompanied by a paying adult. At 6:45 p.m., the artists will participate in a pre-concert "Meet the Artists and the Music" event, free and open to the public. Information: 410-480-9950, or

High school theater season

It's play season at county high schools. Here is the schedule:

Atholton: Harvey - Nov. 9, 10, 11 at 7:30 p.m.; Nov. 12 at 3 p.m.

Centennial: The Odd Couple, female version - Nov. 15, 16, 17, 18 at 7:30 p.m.

Glenelg: True Colors - The 80's Musical - Nov. 16, 17, 18 at 7:30 p.m.

Hammond: Arsenic and Old Lace - Nov. 9, 10, 11 at 7 p.m.; Nov. 11 at 2 p.m.

Howard: The Music Man - Nov. 16, 17, 18 at 7:30 p.m.

Long Reach: Night of January 16th - Nov. 30, Dec. 1, 2 at 7:30 p.m.

Marriotts Ridge: The Good Doctor - Nov. 16, 17, 18 at 7 p.m.

Mount Hebron: The Miracle Worker - Nov. 9, 11, 15, 16, 17, 18 at 7 p.m.

Oakland Mills: Cheaper By the Dozen - Dec. 1, 2 at 7 p.m.

Reservoir: And Then There Were None - Nov. 17, 18 at 7:30 p.m.; Nov. 19 at 2 p.m.

River Hill: Noises Off - Nov. 15, 16, 17, 18 at 7:30 p.m.; Nov. 18 at 2 p.m.; Nov. 19 at 3 p.m.

Wilde Lake: Gorey Stories - Nov. 16, 17, 18 at 7:30 p.m.

[a Sun reporter]

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