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Love and Desire: String Quartets

My friends Ines Voglar Belgique, Joël Belgique and Nancy Ives from the wonderful Oregon Symphony joined me for a night of music, drama and food. This was the "Love and Desire" concert, part of The Seasons Performance Hall's Dinner and Music concert series. The audience was served a three-course meal, and between courses we played music dealing with our theme.

"Jalousie Tango" by Jacob Gade made for a sizzling opening to the night, led by Ines on first violin. This is music of obvious passion, and even though Gade is a Danish composer, he expertly captured the heat of the Argentine tango, so much that it is perhaps the most famously recognizable tango in popular culture. We segued from that into the thrilling and dramatic "Kreutzer Sonata" Quartet No. 1 by Janacek. This piece is a fascinating retelling of the Tolstoy novella about a man's jealous obsession with his pianist wife and her violinist duo partner. Sadly, the tale ends badly, with violence and murder, but it makes for a transfixing musical journey (accompanied by the constant sound of the train, on which the murderer is relating his tale).

After dinner was served, we served up Debussy's sumptuous string quartet. No one knows how to do colorful sensuality like the French, right? And Debussy's life was riddled with romantic scandals - he dated fashion models and singers, and the paparazzi of Paris followed him everywhere as these relationships had their very public train wrecks.

From these more volatile types of love and attraction, we moved to a different kind of story to end the night. Mendelssohn's soulmate was his sister Fanny, and when she died at the young age of 42, he wrote her a Requiem with his last string quartet, and then followed her in death a few months later. The piece is full of anger at this loss, and also of sweet moments of conjuring up the memory of his love for Fanny. It is an incredibly powerful love letter, and I'm so glad to have gotten the chance to live with it for awhile.

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