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Carr Quartet closes with Mozart

IN CONCERT What: Emily Carr String Quartet. When/where: Saturday, 8 p.m., Lutheran Church of the Cross (3787 Cedar Hill Rd.) Tickets: Adults $20, seniors and students $15.


What: Emily Carr String Quartet.

When/where: Saturday, 8 p.m., Lutheran Church of the Cross (3787 Cedar Hill Rd.)

Tickets: Adults $20, seniors and students $15. Call 250-477-6222

What: Victoria Symphony (Classics Series): Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, conducted by Alain Trudel, with the Elmer Iseler Singers

When: Sunday, 2: 30 p.m. Farquhar Auditorium (University Centre, University of Victoria)

Tickets: $33 to $53. Call 250-721-8480; online at; in person at the UVic ticket centre

The Emily Carr String Quartet, soon to celebrate its sixth anniversary, will bring its Victoria concert season to a close Saturday with a program of three substantial classics, bookended by Mozart's exuberant G-major quartet, K. 387 - one of the six he published in 1785 with a dedication to Haydn - and the sumptuous lone quartet by Ravel.

The centrepiece of the program will be one of the most admired and talked-about of all string quartets, Shostakovich's Eighth, which has always been Exhibit A in the heated debates about Shostakovich and his music because the composer himself, uncharacteristically, provided some reliable clues as to its meaning.

In 1960, under intense pressure from the Soviet regime, Shostakovich agreed to formally join the Communist party. His colleagues were mystified and disappointed. The Soviet Union, then in a period of post-Stalinist "thaw," was opening up to the West and even permitting the stirrings of a real dissident movement at home; restrictions on Shostakovich's career and music had been relaxed, and his international reputation seemed secure. Why, then, did he feel compelled to compromise by joining the party?

He had his reasons, but still felt enough remorse and shame over what he called his "cowardice" to trigger an emotional breakdown. The Eighth Quartet was his creative response to this crisis. The work is overtly autobiographical. It is pervaded by the four-note motif corresponding to Shostakovich's monogram (DSCH), alludes to his own earlier works and pointedly quotes a Russian revolutionary prison song, in what has been interpreted as a plea for forgiveness.

Running about 20 minutes, the five-movement work - variously sombre, furious, ironic, anguished, mournful - powerfully captured Shostakovich's troubled feelings, but at its première in October 1960, the autobiographical content was disguised by a safe subtitle: "To the memory of the victims of fascism and war." Privately, however, Shostakovich described the quartet as a memorial to himself.

By fortunate coincidence, this central document in 20th-century music will be given two live performances here, less than a month apart: On April 14, it will also be performed, as part of an all-Russian program, by the DieMahler String Quartet, led by Pablo Diemecke (Church of St. Mary the Virgin, 2: 30 p.m., $25/$22.50).


Sunday's concert of the Victoria Symphony, led by its principal guest conductor Alain Trudel, will feature no less than four Bachs, offering a welcome opportunity to sample the impressive range of music produced by this extraordinary family.

The Victoria Symphony, in its Classics Series, has lately been making a conspicuous effort to look beyond the handful of biggest names of the 18th century and explore other significant composers of the period who are often neglected today (Stamitz, Sammartini and Gossec, for instance, in November's concert). The result has been some beautiful performances of unfamiliar but delectable music. Sunday's program includes symphonies by Johann Sebastian Bach's three most successful sons: Wilhelm Friedemann (his eldest), Carl Philipp Emanuel and Johann Christian (his youngest).

J.S. himself will be represented by two sacred cantatas, the jubilant Erschallet, ihr Lieder, BWV 172, which he composed in 1714 during his tenure as court organist and chamber musician at Weimar, and Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147, which he composed in 1723 shortly after taking up a church position in Leipzig. Both include big choral movements ideal for showcasing the orchestra's distinguished guests, the Elmer Iseler Singers, as well as recitatives and arias for soloists to be drawn from the choir's ranks.

Based in Toronto, this 20person professional chamber choir was founded in 1979 by the celebrated Canadian choral conductor Elmer Iseler (1927-1998), and enjoys an international reputation. Currently directed by Lydia Adams, it gives dozens of performances every year; its Victoria appearance is part of a 10-city B.C. tour.

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