The Alexander String Quartet will conclude its season-long traversal of the six string quartets by Hungarian composer Béla Bartók — and the two string quartets by Bartók’s Hungarian friend and fellow composer Zoltán Kodály — with concerts at 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday, March 16.
Bartók quartets feartured are the Fifth, a five-movement piece composed in 1934, and the Sixth, the composer’s only “conventional” four-movement quartet, composed in 1938-390. The Fifth Quartet is considered one of the composer’s more accessible, it is noted for its stirring Scherzo movement, and the whirling finale (marked Allegro vivace). The Sixth Quartet was the final work that the composer completed before leaving Europe for America — it was written as Nazi troops were occupying more and more of the European mainland, and also as the composer’s mother fell gravely ill and died. The music of the Sixth Quartet reflects some of these somber developments, but the Sixth Quartet also contains brilliant passages that seem to hint at the hope of endurance through difficult times.
The 2 p.m. performance will include remarks by lecturer, composer and music historian Robert Greenberg, who has worked with the Alexander String Quartet at the Mondavi Center since 2002. The 7 p.m. performance — which will have no intermission — will be followed by a question-and-answer period with the musicians of the quartet. The Alexander String Quartet has attracted a loyal following with their concert series at Mondavi, which has surveyed the quartets of Dmitri Shostakovich, Ludwig van Beethoven, Antonin Dvorák and others. Next season, they will perform late chamber works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
The Alexander String Quartet recently recorded all of the string quartets of Bartók and Kodály for their Foghorn label; copies of the multi-CD set will be on sale at the concerts.
Tickets are $54 general, $24.50 for students; www.mondaviarts.org or 530-754-2787.