Avalon String Quartet performs ‘Mozart, Garrop and Brahms’ Nov. 16

The Avalon String Quartet will perform “Mozart, Garrop and Brahms” at 7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 16, at the Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center’s Emerson Auditorium, 415 N. Church St., Rockford. (Photo provided)

Staff Report

Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center (PAC) will present the Avalon String Quartet in concert with “Mozart, Garrop and Brahms” at 7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 16, in Mendelssohn PAC’s Emerson Auditorium, 415 N. Church St., Rockford. A reception will follow the concert in the auditorium.

The Quartet will open with Mozart’s “The String Quartet No. 19 in C Major, KV. 465” that was nicknamed “dissonant” because of its unusual slow introduction. It is perhaps the most famous of his quartets, and is the last in the set of six quartets composed between 1782 and 1785 that he dedicated to Joseph Haydn.

They will continue with Stacy Garrop’s String Quartet No. 4 “Illuminations,” which was inspired by five illuminated pages from a medieval book referred to as “The Hours of Catherine of Cleves.” Books of Hours, the most prolific book of the late Middle Ages, are prayer books for lay people that enable a person to participate privately in the daily round of prayers and devotions that were originally recited only by monks and priests. The main text of a Book of Hours contains a cycle of daily devotions consisting of psalms, lessons from scriptures, hymns, collects and other prayers. Because Books of Hours did not have page numbers or indexes, the illuminations (or illustrations) enabled the owner to quickly find the text needed for reciting the prayers. The quality and number of illuminations, often using silver and gold, depended upon the patron’s ability to pay.

In trying to craft the experience of reading Cleves’ Book of Hours, the composer approached the work similarly to Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. As in Mussorgsky’s work, the audience follows the reader as he or she opens the Book of Hours, studies and reflects upon five illuminations, and then closes the book at the end of prayer.

The five illuminations represented in the quartet are: Plate 1. Catherine of Cleves Prays to the Virgin and Child; Plate 3. Singing Angels; Plate 24. Christ Carrying the Cross; Plate 99. Mouth of Hell; and Plate 35. Trinity Enthroned. Garrop’s String Quartet No. 4: “Illuminations” was commissioned by Nicholas Yasillo in honor of his wife, Susan, who has a passion for learning about Book of Hours.

The final piece will be Johannes Brahms’s String Quartet in A minor. The piece was completed in Tutzing, Bavaria, during the summer of 1873, and published with String Quartet in C minor that autumn as Opus 51. The two quartets were dedicated to Brahms’ friend Theodor Billroth.

The Avalon String Quartet, one of the country’s leading string ensembles, was formerly in residence at Juilliard School and Indiana University, and is now in residence at Northern Illinois University. The quartet features Blaise Magniere, violin; Marie Wang, violin; Anthony Devroye, viola; and Cheg-Hou Lee, cello.

During the 2011-2012 concert season, the Avalon String Quartet presented a six-concert series of Beethoven’s string quartets for the Mendelssohn PAC. Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for students, and can be purchased online at www.mendelssohnpac.org or by calling (815) 964-9713. A season subscription for the three-concert series is available.

From the Nov. 14-20, 2012, issue

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