Sandy Reflects on the SF Performances Britten Series

Alexander String Quartet and Robert GreenbergIt has been fascinating to return after almost a year to Benjamin Britten’s string quartets, paired with the works of his wartime contemporaries and to measure the impact that this transcendental music has had on the ASQ. Only last winter we began our four concert survey at San Francisco’s Herbst Theater with Bob Greenberg for San Francisco Performances and were just beginning at that time to get the feel of pairing early Britten (1933) with late Pavel Haas (1938) whose works were both featured on last week’s inaugural program – “The gathering Storm.”

Although so much has happened in the intervening year, not the least significant for the ASQ has been the opportunity to present several dozen performances of all of these marvelous works. Inevitably the experience has enhanced our perspective, affording us the welcome familiarity that just “living with them” can provide. These pieces are now starting to resemble old and favorite items of clothing – feeling comfortable when we put them on. What may have seemed a little rough and ready when “new,” maybe just less familiar or a little awkward, have now come to feel “lived in” and somehow, just right!

It has been such a pleasure and a privilege to spend the year basking in and reflecting upon Britten’s influence on the ASQ. We all agree that learning and coming to love these Britten quartets has left us unmistakably changed. We find ourselves as a result, eager to make this traversal once again for our Berkeley audience, feeling if anything, more seasoned and mature and so, we might reasonably hope, the better for it. It’s like looking forward to re-reading a treasured book and encountering its characters all over again but this time, with seasoned insights into their complexities and interdependence.

Tomorrow we’ll share Bela Bartok’s 6th and last quartet from 1939 with Benjamin Britten’s first quartet, written in this country in 1941 in a program that Robert Greenberg calls “Their Finest Hour.”

For those of you who may be interested but can’t attend, we do plan to capture these concert performances on video and hope to post then early in 2014. If you can’t wait even that long, you might catch one of the Monday evening re-broadcasts from our spring series also presented by San Francisco Performances on KALW at 91.7FM.

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