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Penderecki String Quartet

Somewhere along the way, I became terribly corrupted by 20th century Eastern European classical composers. I think it probably had something to do with the fact that the troubled music of the oppressed became a welcome soundtrack to late nights of toiling with my friend John over some dreadful chemical engineering problem set involving something bizarre like calculating the temperature and pressure at which oak actually becomes a liquid. And then estimating its flow using spherical coordinates. Er, right.

Anyhow, this evening, the Penderecki String Quartet will be performing (among other pieces) String Quartet No. 1 (aka "Already it is dusk") by Gorecki, String Quartet No. 1 by Bartok, and String Quartet No. 1 by Penderecki. Gorecki is probably best known for his gorgeously subtle, repetitive Third Symphony - however I think it is fair to describe his first String Quartet, originally commissioned for the Kronos Quartet in 1988, as "challenging" in its generous use of dischord. Bartok's first string quartet is frankly not one of my favorites - it is reasonably early in his career (1909), and seems rather transitional between his more direct fascination with Hungarian folk melodies and the somewhat rigorous expressionism I enjoy in his later work. I have not heard Penderecki's string quartet - but using as a guide his "Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima" (in which the string section beats their instruments with their bows) and some of his other works involving musical saws, I imagine that this piece probably also pushes musical limits not usually found in more "traditional" classical music.

These composers don't typically get much airtime, so if you're even the least bit curious, now would be a good opportunity to check them out. [For those unable to attend, I think Gorecki's 3rd Symphony is beautiful and quite accessible to just about everyone, Bartok's "Music for Strings, Percussion & Celesta" and "Concerto for Orchestra" quite enjoyable for the more open-minded, and Penderecki's "Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima" quite amazing, but perhaps only for the very brave.] If you're not much for modern classical, however, this show will be a lot like being forced to chew on aluminum foil for several hours.

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