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String Quartet brings romance to Valentine's Day

On Valentine's Day, Berea College hosted the acclaimed Marion Anderson String Quartet, the first of three Stephenson Memorial Convocation Concerts of the Spring 2008 semester.

The Marian Anderson String Quartet gave a memorable Valentine's Day performance.

With a brief introduction by sophomore Breon Thomas, the four women took the stage with a strong reception from the audience. Diedra Lawrence, the viola player of the group, started off the convocation by singing a sample song based on the spiritual "Calvary" so the audience could understand what the song would sound like if a singer were also present with the instruments.

Giving a soulful performance, the quartet then kicked in with a short piece, which set up the longer, movement-driven song, “String Quartet No. 1 Op. 7.” This composition, written by Bela Bartok, the famous 20th century Hungarian composer, was written when he was quite young and very much in love with a woman who didn’t share his affections. This sense of unrequited love was almost palpable with the opening movement titled “Lento – attaca.” With its leisurely, yet uneasy pace, it carried its heartbreaking melody well as the piece shifted into the ominous middle section, “Poco a poco accelerando all’Allegretto.” Finally, the opening melody was repeated with more force in the finale, “Allegro vivace,” which ended this beautiful song that the quartet appropriately played for Valentine’s Day.

At this point, the quartet took an intermission but stayed on stage to answer questions about their history of how they met. Three of the women shared classrooms at the Manhattan school of music, while they met the final member right down the road at Juliard in New York City.

Finally, the quartet wrapped up their show in epic fashion with the sprawling “String Quartet in G Major Op. 11 No. 1” by 19th century Russian composer Anton Arensky. Although Arensky isn’t as well known as Bartok, the quartet stressed how important he was, and still is to the world of music. This being the first quartet he ever penned, the song aptly feels like a diamond in the rough: the first movement, “Allegro,” set a more classical tone in place before it settled into the highly melodious, slow groove of “Andante sostenuto.” However, the piece began to shift gears with its final two movements, climaxing with the most playful tune appearing right at the end. “Allegro non troppo” bounced along merrily with Prudence McDaniel expertly plucking the cello. The song sped to the finish line with both violinists, Marianne Henry and Nicole Cherry dueling to the very end, allowing the whole quartet to catch up and draw to a strong close together.

As a Valentine’s Day concert, Berea students and citizens alike couldn’t have asked for more as the Marion Anderson String Quartet let the romance hit the air with unmistakable majesty.

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