Death and the Maiden highlights March 24 SSQ concert

Franz Schubert’s masterwork “Death and Maiden” highlights the Spokane String Quartet’s upcoming concert at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 24, at the Bing Crosby Theater. The piece replaces Erich Korngold’s String Quartet No. 2 on the previously announced program.

The John Adams piece “Fellow Traveler” opens the program, which features a guest performance by former SSQ cellist John Marshall, who plays principal cello for the Spokane Symphony.

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Sarah Bass, viola player for the Spokane Symphony, joins the group for Mozart’s String Quintet No. 4 in G Minor.

John Adams’ Fellow Traveler was composed for theater director Peter Sellars’ 50th birthday, celebrating their decades-long friendship and collaboration on all of Adams’ operas, beginning in 1985 with Nixon in China. Sellars was initially attracted to Adams’ music with its dramatic “sweep of tension and release, and then adrenaline-inspired visionary states. That is absolutely what you hope for in the theater.” Fellow Traveler captures that vibrant energy in a short, rhythmic sprint using pulsing themes from Nixon in China.

Mozart often played the viola in his own string quartet concerts, highlighting his fondness for the viola. Additionally, he wrote six string quintets which all include a second viola joining the standard string quartet, giving added warmth and texture to the inner voices of the ensemble. String Quintets No. 3 (in C Major) and 4 (in G minor) are contrasting (sunny vs. darker) large-scale masterworks composed consecutively in 1787 during the summit of Mozart’s creative powers. Quintet No. 4 was composed when Mozart’s father was dying. Tchaikovsky wrote about the third movement, “No one else has ever known how to interpret so beautifully in music the feeling of resignation and inconsolable sorrow.”  

Like Mozart, Franz Schubert was a brilliant, prolific composer whose life was cut short in his 30s. When facing incurable disease, Schubert transformed his despair into composing powerful masterpieces, including String Quartet No. 14 Death and the Maiden. The emotional breadth, bold symphonic scale, forceful urgency, and imaginative variations in this quartet all contribute to its reputation as being among the finest ever written. 

All seats for the concert are general admission and are available through or at the door. Tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for seniors, or free for persons under 18 and students with ID.