Sunday afternoon, two string quartets — the Borromeo and the Portland — will meet and join forces for a rare performance of a pair of classical gems, Johannes Brahms's String Sextet in G Major, Op. 36 and Felix Mendelssohn's Octet in E flat Major, Op. 20.
This year would see Mendelssohn's 200th birthday, so his work is getting quite a bit of play worldwide. But hearing his octet, which he wrote when he was 16 and later scored for a full orchestra, in its original orchestration is unusual, and all the more special for being played by such extraordinary musicians. And while this performance will mark the end of the PSQ's 40th anniversary season, it merely means the chamber-music season will soon be upon us (not to mention full-on summer festivals)
Mendelssohn is often accused of being devoid of emotion, but Brahms is entirely the opposite and the sextet is no exception — rather, it is one of his more emotional and dramatic works. The addition of the two instruments, a viola and a cello, fill out the bottom of the quartet, on which Brahms leans for some thick, heavy harmonies. Not all is weighty, though: the second-movement scherzo beings with some lovely melodies reminiscent of spring birds, and the third has some truly exciting, bounce-up-off-your-seat moments.
As a bonus for the weekend, two members of the Borromeo String Quartet will also perform in Kennebunk on Saturday. Violinist Nicholas Kitchen and cellist Yeesun Kim will pair for an all-Bach program including the Suite for Cello in G, the Partita No. 2 for violin, and a transcription of a selection of 2-Part Inventions.
Borromeo String Quartet + Portland String Quartet | perform Brahms + Mendelssohn | April 19 @ 2 pm | Woodfords Congregational Church, Woodford St, Portland | $20; 21 and under free | 207.761.1522
Bach's Birthday Bash (a belated 324th) |with Nicholas Kitchen + Yeesun Kim | April 18 @ 3 pm | followed by a reception with the musicians | River Tree Center for the Arts, 35 Western Avenue, Kennebunk Lower Village | Donations requested; reservations suggested | 207.967.9021