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On Sunday, March 31, the Borromeo String Quartet will return to St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Durham to present three radically different string quartets by composers whose lives overlapped: César Franck (1822-1890), Claude Debussy (1862-1917), and Charles Ives (1874-1954). The 4:00 p.m. concert will open with Franck's String Quartet in D major, written during the last year of Franck's life. Only three years later Debussy, at the age of 31, would write his only string quartet, a popular staple of the string quartet literature, which is a world apart from Franck's quartet. Between these two works the Borromeo will perform the String Quartet No. 2 of the iconoclast American composer Charles Ives. Although Ives composed the quartet between 1911 and 1913, its premiere did not take place until 1946!
In the printed programs on March 31 the movements of the three works will be listed. In the case of Franck and Debussy one will see only Italian words such as Allegro, Lento, Presto, etc. But, for the Ives' quartet, one will see:
Here is Ive's description of the "program" of his quartet:
"String Quartet for 4 men — who converse, discuss, argue (re: 'Politick'), fight, shake hands, shut up — then walk up the mountain side to view the firmament!"
Ives' quartet represents his reaction to string quartet music which he felt had become "trite, weak, and effeminate … too much tied to the old ladies." In particular, he cited a concert by the all male Kneisel Quartet after which "I started a string quartet score, half mad, half in fun, and half to try out, practice, and have fun making these men fiddlers get up and do something like men."
The concert is part of the 2018-2019 season of the St. Stephen's Concert Series. Tickets ($25) are available at the door with free admission to those 18 or under. There will be a half-hour Pre-Concert Discussion at 3:00 p.m. and a reception will follow the concert. The church is located at 82 Kimberly Drive in Durham, 27707.