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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Three eclectic works will be presented by the Spokane String Quartet

Quartet members are, from left, Jeannette Wee-Yang, viola; Mateusz Wolski, violin; Amanda Howard Phillips, violin; and Helen Byrne, cello.  (Courtesy of Hamilton Studio)

Much like former Spokane Symphony resident conductor Morihiko Nakahara, Spokane String Quartet second violinist Amanda Howard-Phillips enjoys finding and playing music that’s off the beaten path.

“What I love about Morihiko Nakahara is that he’s a curious musician,” Howard-Phillips said from her South Hill home. “I enjoyed working with him when he was here (from 2003-10). I always like finding cool stuff that I never heard of.”

Joseph Bologne, a French violinist, who was also a conductor and composer, has slipped through the cracks of history. Bologne’s “String Quartet Op. 1 in G Minor” will be played Sunday by the Spokane String Quartet, which also includes first violinist Mateusz Wolski, viola player Jeannette Wee-Yang and cellist Helen Byrne, at the Bing Crosby Theater.

“Bologne’s music is fantastic,” Howard-Phillips said. “His music is bright, sparkling and virtuoisic. It has to be heard but not a lot of people have heard Bologne’s music.”

Bologne, a biracial free man, who made a musical mark during the 16th century, was so gifted he was known as “The Black Mozart.” However, his recognition was diminished due to racism.

“He was incredibly talented and a genius on many levels,” Howard-Phillips said. “Mateusz said he feels like he is playing Mozart when he plays Bologne.

“It wasn’t easy for Bologne. He didn’t get the musical training due to his background.”

But Bologne is finally receiving his due. Bologne is the subject of the biographical film “Chevalier,” which hit screens in 2022.

“I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I want to,” Howard-Phillips said. “It’s important that Bologne gets recognized. I’m sure those who come out will love his music.”

Howard-Phillips is excited about performing Maurice Ravel’s “String Quartet in F Major” and Gabriel Faure’s “String Quartet in E Minor” due to their connection.

“Ravel studied composition with Faure, who was his teacher for many years in Paris,” Howard-Phillips said.

The juxtaposition of their pieces excites Howard-Phillips.

“I love the way Ravel approaches color, rhythm and tonality,” she said. “The second movement is quite famous. People will be surprised to know it since it’s been in so many commercials and movies.”

Faure’s piece is subtle and spare.

“What Faure created is so different than what you’ll hear from Ravel,” Howard-Phillips said. “It’s quite dreamy and it reflects his life at that point. Faure was at the end of his life and his (final) work is just lovely. He was in a different place than Ravel, who was just 28 when he composed his quartet.

“What we’ll be presenting is three very different but provocative pieces.”