The Spokane String Quartet will span the centuries and many moods Sunday with works by Schubert, Ravel and Shostakovich.
Ravel’s Quartet in F major, his only contribution to the genre, was written early in his career. Shostakovich, in addition to cranking out symphonies, wrote 15 quartets. His 13th, in B-flat minor, was written in 1970, toward the end of his life.
Franz Schubert’s 1824 Quartet in A minor, Op. 29, would have been a youthful work by most standards. He was 27, the same age as Ravel was when he wrote his quartet, but starting young and living fast places this piece late in Schubert’s career.
Schubert’s melodic quartet was well-received in his lifetime, and of his numerous chamber works was the only quartet published before he shuffled off his mortal coil.
Maurice Ravel was an innovator who, in his younger days, was caught between doing what he felt and pleasing the Establishment. He studied composition at the Paris Conservatory on and off for a number of years, but in spite of his brilliance failed to land any prizes for composition. It is hard to say whether he was stubborn in his attempts to open the ears of the Old Guard or whether he was simply unable to write a fugue to its liking.
His Quartet was written in 1902-03, during his final years at the conservatory, and is dedicated to his composition teacher, Gabriel Faure. By this time, Ravel was auditing Faure’s class, since he had not been able to maintain official student status.
His fascination with exotic sounds and Eastern music found approbation from the public, however. He gave up on the Conservatory as his quartet and other works gained popular appeal with the Impressionist movement.
Speaking of pleasing the Establishment, Dimitri Shostakovich spent his life trying to stay within the Soviet party line. Between his ins and outs with the powers that were and settling up with his own personal demons, he had a good deal of angst to dish up by the time he wrote his late works.
His Quartet No. 13 is a onemovement work that tends toward the introspective and lugubrious. The beginning and ending of the arch form are slow, with a quicker middle, and its 12-note theme leaves the tonality ambiguous. His quartets tend to be very personal expressions, and the late ones are very dark, seeming to look death in the eye.
Shostakovich’s final quartets were dedicated to members of the Beethoven String Quartet, who premiered all of his works for the medium since No. 2. Beethoven violist Vadim Borisovsky was honored by this one, so the Spokane String Quartet’s Claire Keeble will get a workout.
Fear not the dreariness, though. Shostakovich has a lot to say, and the Spokane String Quartet has a knack for unlocking 20th century pieces. And Schubert and Ravel will be all the more refreshing for the variety.
xxxx The Spokane String Quartet Time and location: 3 p.m. Sunday at The Met Tickets: $10 for general admission and $8 for seniors and students, available at the door, Hoffman Music, Street Music and through G&B; Select-a-Seat (325-SEAT). Information: 327-9315.