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String quartets concert in Placitas

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Justin Pollak, a member of the New Mexico Philharmonic and the Santa Fe Symphony, performs in two string quartets with Willy Sucre and Friends on Sunday in Placitas. (Courtesy of Justin Pollak)

Justin Pollak, a member of the New Mexico Philharmonic and the Santa Fe Symphony, performs in two string quartets with Willy Sucre and Friends on Sunday in Placitas. (Courtesy of Justin Pollak)

The excitement is building for violinist Justin Pollak as the date approaches for his performance in two string quartets with Willy Sucre and Friends.

The date is this Sunday. The venue is Las Placitas Presbyterian Church in Placitas.

And the quartets are by Felix Mendelssohn and Antonin Dvorak.

“These two composers are masters of writing for the string quartet,” Pollak said. “I’ve spent my whole life listening to string quartets and playing them at times.”

In this concert, he is playing the second violin part in Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in A Minor, Opus 13 and Dvorak’s String Quartet No. 10 in E-flat major.

The Dvorak strikes an emotional chord for listeners who sometimes reminisce about memories of childhood, Pollak said, and the music affects him in the same way.

“There’s the ‘dumka’ movement, which is based on (Slavic) folk music, and an oral tradition of storytelling in families and communities,” he said.

Dvorak, Leos Janacek and Bohuslav Martinu are several Czech composers who incorporated folk themes in their classical compositions, Pollak noted.

“Oftentimes there are soulful, bittersweet passages (in the Dvorak), with the first violin’s soaring melodies, and the second violin and viola playing a counter-melody underneath,” he said.

As for the Mendelssohn string quartet, he said, the teenage composer was influenced by Ludwig van Beethoven’s late string quartets. As a result, one could mistake parts of the Mendelssohn quartet for sections of Beethoven’s late quartets.

Additionally, Mendelssohn’s work captures the feeling of being in love.

“He had written a short song before he wrote the quartet, and then he borrowed that song and adapted parts of it to the beginning of the first movement and almost all of it to the end of the fourth movement. The song itself is only 30 or so measures,” Pollak said.

Pollak is a member of the New Mexico Philharmonic and the Santa Fe Symphony.

“I enjoy playing chamber music, too,” he said. “In a smaller ensemble, everybody is accountable to their parts and what you get out of it is amazing. … With an orchestra, you can’t always hear yourself playing.”

Teaming up with Pollak and Sucre, a violist, in the concert are violinist Kevin Connolly and cellist Sally Guenther.

The concert is part of the Placitas Artists Series.

At 2 p.m., one hour before the concert, there will be a reception for two artists whose work is on display in the church’s gallery. They are jeweler Emily Holcomb and mixed media artist Dianna Shomaker.

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