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Gerald Carpenter: Saint Lawrence String Quartet Coming to UCSB

The ensemble will team up with professor Robert Koenig on Thursday in Campbell Hall

UCSB Arts & Lectures will present a concert by the Saint Lawrence String Quartet at 8 p.m. Thursday in UCSB’s Campbell Hall.

Dmitri Shostakovich
Dmitri Shostakovich

The ensemble is normally made up of Geoff Nuttall and Scott St. John on violins, Lesley Robertson on viola and Christopher Costanza on cello, but St. John is on paternity leave, and violinist Mark Fewer will be sitting in for him.

For this performance, the quartet will team up with UCSB professor Robert Koenig, collaborative piano maven, for one of the works on their program.

The Saint Lawrence program consists of three works: Franz Josef Haydn’s String Quartet in D-Major, Opus 20, No. 4, Dmitri Shostakovich’s Quintet in G-Minor for Piano and Strings, Opus 57 and Maurice Ravel’s String Quartet in F-Major (1901-1902).

Shostakovich wrote his Quintet for Piano and Strings in 1940, and if ever a composition of his may be said to have enjoyed smooth sailing — past the Soviet censors, critics and audiences at home and abroad — it is this one. It represents a nearly perfect synthesis of Jacques Barzun’s famous dialectic triangulation “classic, romantic, modern.” To anyone whose tastes have not ossified at the year 1900, the romantic is clearly the ascendant, though with a modern edge and organized on classical principles in its five movements: Prelude-Fugue-Scherzo-Intermezzo-Finale.

The composer was himself a brilliant virtuoso pianist, and anything he wrote that had a substantial piano part was conceived with himself in mind, and tough luck for any pianist who wasn’t up to it. That is where Koenig comes in. He eats Shostakovich for breakfast.

The Saint Lawrence, in their wisdom, seem to have allowed for the possibility that some audiences might find the Shostakovich — as nimble and relatively cheerful as it is — a little on the serious side, so they will conclude with Ravel, whom no one has ever accused of excessive seriousness — pained wistfulness is about his limit.

Tickets to the Saint Lawrence Quartet are $35 for the general public and $15 for UCSB students, and can be obtained by clicking here or calling UCSB Arts & Lectures at 805.893.3535.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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