Miami String Quartet returns to the Dairy

Feb. 11 Soundscape concert is part of an extensive spring lineup

By Peter Alexander Feb. 6 at 11:30 a.m.


Miami String Quartet

Keith Robinson, cellist of the Miami String Quartet, loves coming to Colorado.

“I fell in love with Colorado,” he says. “I think every Coloradan should feel very lucky to live in the state. It’s so beautiful. You have the best of everything!”

Including, it should be noted, a vital musical life in Boulder that includes visits by renowned artists including the Miami String Quartet.

A faculty member at Kent State University in Ohio, Robinson comes to Colorado with the other members of the quartet for regular residencies through Off the Hook Arts in Ft. Collins. Their visits often include concert performances at Boulder’s Dairy Arts Center.

Most of the residencies occur in the summer, but now a February residency enables the quartet to return to the Dairy as part of its extensive winter-spring concert schedule. The concert—4 p.m. Sunday (Feb. 11) on the Dairy’s “Soundscape” series—will feature three works from the core of the quartet repertoire: Mozart’s String Quartet in G major, K387; Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 8; and Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in E-flat major, op. 44 no. 3. (See below for other events on the Dairy’s upcoming concert schedule.)

Keith Robinson

Keith Robinson

Robinson says that the Feb. 11 program is “pretty much our standard fare, presenting something modern in the middle, starting off with something classical and finishing with a big Romantic ender.” Of the three it’s the “big Romantic ender,” the Mendelssohn E-flat major Quartet, that falls just outside the common string quartet repertoire.

“It’s not played a lot,” Robinson says. “I’m 55 and it took me 54 years before I played it for the first time. Now I question why I didn’t know it earlier because it’s a real gem. I think audiences will find it really satisfying.”

In fact, Mendelssohn’s string quartets are less well known than those of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and several 20th-century composers including Bartók and Shostakovich. But if it were up to Robinson, that would change.

“Mendelssohn is one of my favorite composers,” he says. “His scherzos, just like Midsummer Night’s Dream, are fantastic, and all of the quartets have a movement like that. His slow movements can be very, very pure and Romantic, as this one is. But it’s the high energy stuff that really turns me on. Mendelssohn is always a high energy composer.”

The other two works on the program have both already been played in Boulder this year, Mozart’s Quartet in G major on the Takacs Quartet program last weekend, and the Shostakovich Eighth Quartet by the Altius Quartet in January.

Composed when Mozart was just 26, the G major Quartet marks the beginning of the composer’s mature instrumental style. Already an accomplished opera composer, Mozart had written a number of quartets, all of them short works written for entertainment. But after playing and studying Haydn’s latest string quartets, Mozart started writing pieces that were larger in scope and more serious in manner.

“This was big step for Mozart,” Robinson says. ”The younger quartets are really nice, they’re really sweet, but the G major Quartet is really stepping into Haydn’s (stylistic) territory.” Today, Haydn’s six String Quartets op. 33 and the six quartets Mozart wrote in response, starting with K387, are considered landmarks of the Classical style.


Dmitri Shostakovich

The Eighth is probably the most played of Shostakovich’s 15 quartets. Composed at a low point of the composer’s life, it is a gloomy but powerful work. It is also a highly personal one that reflects upon the composer’s own struggles in the Soviet Union. Shostakovich quoted his own earlier works, and put his musical initials in the form of a series of notes representing D-S-C-H (D-E flat-C-B natural) throughout the quartet. (Read more about the background and the music of the Eighth Quartet here.)

To Robinson, the Eighth Quartet is an essential piece of music that he teaches to all of his students. “Every string quartet should play No. 8 because it is so good,” he says. “It deserves all of the attention it gets, because it is superbly written. There’s not a note out of place.

“It’s very direct. And that’s what I like about Shostakovich: it speaks to you. I think everyone can take something away from Shostakovich 8.”

# # # # #

Soundscape: The Miami String Quartet
4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 11
Gordon Gamm Theater; Dairy Arts Center

Mozart: String Quartet in G major, K387
Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 8
Mendelssohn: String Quartet in E-flat major, op. 44 no. 3


04-Dairy_Center_for_the_Arts.jpgOther Dairy Center music events
Spring 2018

CU@The Dairy: Worlds Around Us—John Gunther & Friends
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 21
The Gordon Gamm Theater

Twilight Studios: Ghost Ship of State
8 p.m. Saturday, March 3
The Carsen Theater

Jazz at the Dairy: Flowers of Evil
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 14
The Gordon Gamm Theater

Boulder Opera Company: Così Fan Tutte by Mozart, piano dress rehearsal
7 p.m. Tuesday, March 20
The Gordon Gamm Theater

One Night Only: Hope Lives
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 21
The Gordon Gamm Theater

Boulder Opera Company: Così Fan Tutte by Mozart
3 p.m. Sunday, March 25
The Gordon Gamm Theater

One Night Only: Colorado Classics
7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 05
The Gordon Gamm Theater

Jazz at the Dairy: Angels & Devils
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 18
The Gordon Gamm Theater

Soundscape: Katie Glassman & Snapshot|
2 p.m. Wednesday, April 25
The Gordon Gamm Theater

One Night Only: MahlerFest XXXI
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 16
The Gordon Gamm Theater

Soundscape: The Elixir of Love
2 p.m. Wednesday, May 30
The Gordon Gamm Theater, Boulder

More information and tickets available on the Dairy Center Web page.

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