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Saturday, January 19 , 2019, 9:59 am | Fair 54º


Santa Barbara Gives Violist Kirsten Monke a Warm Homecoming

The former Santa Barbara Symphony member returns for a performance with her DaPonte String Quartet

The Santa Barbara Unitarian Society sanctuary was filled on Sunday — with Unitarians, music lovers, friends of violist Kirsten Monke, and many who combine two or all three of those affiliations.

Monke, formerly the principal violist with the Santa Barbara Symphony, was back for a visit, bringing with her the other members of the DaPonte String Quartet, her present musical home. She looked delighted during the afternoon performance and received a rousing welcome from the audience.

Monke, who also played with the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra and Opera Santa Barbara during her time here, joined the DaPonte ensemble last year, relocating to the group’s home base in Maine. The quartet, founded in 1991, also includes violinists Ferdinand Liva and Lydia Forbes, and cellist Myles Jordan.

All four have long and distinguished pedigrees. Monke received bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Indiana and has taught at the Music Academy of the West, among a host of other venues.

Liva is a noted conductor and teacher in his own right and is also the son of Ferdinand Liva Sr., a well-known conductor and teacher. The younger Liva studied at the Peabody Institute with Berl Senofsky, and then with Luis Biava at Temple University, where he graduated with a master’s degree, as well as a professional studies certificate. He is assistant professor of violin and chamber music at Wilkes University, and conductor of the University Orchestra.

Forbes graduated from Yale College, where she studied with Dorothy DeLay and won the Weckstrom Prize for musical performance, and the New England Conservatory of Music, where she studied with Masuko Ushioda and received a master’s degree with honors. She also studied in Austria with the Alban Berg Quartet and in Amsterdam, on a Beebe Fund Grant, with Vera Beths.

Among the many world-class cellists with whom Jordan studied were Janos Starker and Mstislav Rostropovich. He earned a master’s degree at Juilliard and received a doctorate at the Esther Boyer College of Music.

Sunday afternoon’s program began with W.A. Mozart’s String Quartet in A Major, K. 464 in four movements. This is one of six “Haydn Quartets” composed by the mature Mozart and dedicated to Franz Josef Haydn. Needless to say, these artists gave it a soulful reading, with Forbes especially effective in the third, andante movement.

It was followed by the Arcadiana Opus 12 of Thomas Ades, written in 1994. Monke pointed out before playing began that four of the seven movements have a theme of water, including the final, “Lethe,” which was quite dramatic.

After an intermission, the group played Claude Debussy’s String Quartet in G Minor, Opus 10, introduced in 1893. The second movement, “Assez vif et bien rhytme,” featured all four musicians in a striking passage of pure pizzicato. Later in the piece, Monke and Jordan played a moving duet passage for the viola and cello.

After a brief encore, a sweet and bluesy lullaby by George Gershwin, players and audience adjourned to the social room for refreshments. Well-wishers flocked around Monke, and it is obvious that she has been sorely missed.

But in a quartet of this caliber, playing the chamber works that she so loves, it’s equally obvious that Monke has found her true home.

— Margo Kline covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor.

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