The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Lydian String Quartet of Boston returns this Thursday night to the Token Creek Festival to perform two contemporary works and a quartet by Felix Mendelssohn. On Sunday, they will perform Baroque works. | August 25, 2015

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear’s friends at the Token Creek Festival write:

The Token Creek Festival is pleased to announce the return to Madison of the Lydian String Quartet from Boston on this Thursday night, Aug. 27, at 8 p.m. The Lydians last appeared at Token Creek in 1999, for a pair of outstanding concerts with the soprano Benita Valente.

The Lydian’s recital features two string quartets by two contemporary composers whose work they have championed for many years — Lee Hyla and John Harbison — along with the Mendelssohn Quartet in E flat, Op. 12 (1829).

The Lydian Quartet (below) has performed a large number of new pieces. Their Token Creek program includes two that were composed within a four-year span, but which speak two very different American musical languages.

Lydian Quartet USE

Both Hyla’s Quartet No. 3 (1989), commissioned by Chamber Music America, and Harbison’s Quartet No. 3 (1993), commissioned by Brandeis University, are single-movement works.

The work by Lee Hyla (below, in a photo by Mark Wilson for The Boston Globe) begins consonantly and reflectively, with a ravishingly beautiful homophonic passage that haunts much of the subsequent music. (You can hear the haunting Hyla work played by the Lydian Quartet in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

The work traverses a wide terrain and gradually branches out into a discourse that is hardly inferable from its opening strains, and that ultimately leads to a major climax and a quiet, inevitable conclusion.

Lee Hyla CR Mark Wilson Boston Globe

The quartet by John Harbison (below) is hymnodic, rarely contrapuntal, and sustains its central musical declaration throughout, with the exception of two  “out of the blue,” unexplained interludes.

The BBC Music Magazine called the piece “a fascinating, alluring, and moving musical argument,” and the Boston Globe considers it one of Harbison’s finest works, an important addition to the repertory for the string quartet. . . The moods are volatile and wide‑ranging ‑ intimate, public, ferocious, suave, passionate, masked, fleeting and sustained.”

John Harbison MIT

The string quartets by Felix Mendelssohn (below) are among his finest and most striking compositions. They reconcile classical models with romantic passion.

Mendelssohn’s admiration of Ludwig van Beethoven shines brightly in this work. It is lovely music throughout, ebullient and euphonious, and its third movement, the Canzonetta, is probably the single best-known chamber music movement in Mendelssohn’s output.

mendelssohn_300

In addition to their own recital, the Lydians will also appear on the closing concerts of the Token Creek Festival (Saturday, Aug. 29, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 30, at 4 p.m.). They will anchor a program of Baroque concerti (with some related smaller chamber pieces), including the irrepressible Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 by Johann Sebastian Bach as well as works by George Frideric Handel and Arcangelo Corelli.

Tickets are $30 ($10 for students) for all performances.

Tickets can be bought by using the order form at the Token Creek website www.tokencreekfestival.org, by phone at 608-241-2525, by email at info@tokencreekfestival.org, or by U.S. mail at P.O. Box 5201, Madison WI, 53705.

Performances take place at the Festival Barn, on Highway 19 near the hamlet of Token Creek (10 minutes north of Madison) with ample parking available. The venue, indoors and air-conditioned, is invitingly small—early reservations are recommended.

TokenCreekentrance

TokenCreekbarn interior

More information about the Token Creek Festival and all events can be found at the website, http://www.tokencreekfestival.org or by calling 608-241-2525.

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