It’s been a whirlwind season of artistic triumphs for classical music in Santa Barbara, with all of our city’s prominent organizations dedicated to that art back in person and in fine form. Adding immeasurably to these cultural riches, UCSB Arts & Lectures has embarked on an ambitious program of presenting the world’s finest musicians and commissioning innovative new works for them. We saw and heard Jennifer Koh and Davóne Tines making musical history with Everything Rises at Campbell Hall just a month ago. Last week, on April 27, the Danish String Quartet (DSQ) returned to resume the presentation of their A&L commissioned project, the Doppelgänger.
This undertaking aims at nothing less than a comprehensive reimagining of the core of the Romantic string quartet repertoire. Approaching one of the most significant quartets ever written as a source and inspiration, Finnish composer Lotta Wennäkoski took Franz Schubert’s String Quartet No. 14 in D Minor, D. 810, “Death and the Maiden,” and built her response to it, Pige, to better express the maiden’s point of view.
The program began with the Danish String Quartet stretching out on Schubert’s original, an astonishingly fine piece of music of seemingly infinite depth. After the interval, they returned to bring some musical news. While Death was once the dance leader, “the future belongs to the girl.” Wennäkoski’s composition began in turbulent conversation; moved into ringing, bell-like tones; and achieved a final lyricism before the cellist signaled its conclusion by tearing the score in half.
Another brief version of “Death and the Maiden” arranged by the DSQ closed out the main program, which the musicians followed with an encore expressing their homesickness based on a Danish folk song known as “Who Can Sail Without the Wind?” These musicians have elevated string quartet music beyond the expectations of even the most discerning connoisseur, and it is a privilege to welcome them as frequently as we do.
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