Verona String Quartet opens Electric Earth Concerts

  • kaupo kikkas—Copyright: Kaupo Kikkas

  • The Verona String Quartet will open Electric Earth Concerts’ season this Saturday. Courtesy photo by Kaupo Kikkas

  • kaupo kikkas—Copyright: Kaupo Kikkas

  • The Verona String Quartet will perform three masterworks of classical music during its concert Saturday to open Electric Earth Concerts’ season. —Courtesy photo by Kaupo Kikkas

  • kaupo kikkas—Copyright: Kaupo Kikkas

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, March 07, 2018 6:14PM
March 10: Verona String Quartet at the First Church in Jaffrey at 7:30 p.m.April 8: “Peacocks” with pianist Molly Morkoski at the First Church in Jaffrey at 4 p.m.April 29: Songs in the Key of Love at the Congregation Ahavas Achim in Keene at 4 p.m.June 1

Classical music is still a living, breathing, contemporary art.

Over the years, Electric Earth Concerts has commissioned new classical pieces, said General Manager Joan Epro. This year, their commissioned work is inspired by the most recent work of author Richard Powers, who will preside over the composition of a new piece.

The work includes four composers, four writers, and an ensemble of instrumentalists and singers. The music will be by David Garner, Stephen Jaffe, Eric Moe and Melinda Wagner and feature soprano Tony Arnold and baritone Alex Hurd.

“Electric Earth Concerts have a commitment to contemporary music,” said Epro. We think it’s important to hear what contemporary composers are saying.”

The piece is entitled “A Forest Unfolding,” and will serve as a centerpiece to the season. The theme draws from the interconnectedness of life, reflects the theme of Powers most recent novel, “The Overstory.”

While this piece draws on contemporary classical music, the first concert of the season, which will be held this Saturday at the First Church in Jaffrey, will feature the Verona String Quartet playing what viola player Abigail Rojansky refers to as “core pieces” within the classical music canon.

Verona Quartet is a returning performer to Electric Earth, and this will be their third performance with concert series.

“Verona is a young group, which is very exciting, but they sound as though they’ve been playing together a long time,” said Epro. “It’s the kind of music that makes you smile when you listen to it.”

The Verona Quartet will be playing three quartet masterworks, including Leos Janacek’s Quartet No. 2, also known as “Intimate Letters”, Johannes Brahms’ Quartet No. 2 in A minor and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Quartet in F major, K 590.

“These are all pieces that people should hear at least once in their lifetime. It hits on the drama of music,” said Rojansky.

Both the Janacek and Brahms pieces are interesting, said Rojansky, because they are inspired by “torturous love.”

“‘Intimate Letters’ is fascinating, because it’s loosely based of a series of letters Janacek wrote to a woman half his age. He had a love affair with her in his head, and that culminated in this piece.”

And while Janacek was composing in the 1850s, his piece will sound almost modern to listeners, said Rojansky.

“Janacek is sort of unexpectedly avant garde,” she said. 

Brahms’ piece, too, was inspired by his feelings for his teacher’s wife, whom he was “famously in love with,” said Rojansky.

“That kind of tension and pain and passion and love comes out in the music and gives the piece its inspiration.”

Knowing that kind of background can help an artist connect to a piece and bring additional layers to a performance, said Rojansky.

“These things are endlessly fascinating,” said Rojansky. “The more you study the piece, the more complex your relation with it. It allows you to bring the composers to life.”

And it can change how the audience receives the music as well.

“Just keep an open mind and open heart and allow the music to affect you,” said Rojansky. “With any performance, it’s so improtant to be open and engaged. That’s a skill the audience can bring to the performance.”

The Verona String Quartet will be followed up with a performance of the jazz standard “The Peacocks” with pianist Molly Morkoski on April 8.

Several of this year’s performances will be by quartets, including a performance with period instruments, Celtic music performed with Acronym and featuring soprano Fiona Gillespie, and cabaret performed with Jennifer Sheehan. Electric Earth perennial favorites the Horszowski Trio will perform twice, once as a trio on July 18, and as Horszowski and Friends on July 21. 

Electric Earth Concerts will open with a performance by the Verona String Quartet at the First Church in Jaffrey on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. “A Forest Unfolding” will be performed on Sunday, Aug. 12 at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Peterborough at 5 p.m. For a full list of this year’s concerts, visit www.electricearthconcerts.org.