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Escher String Quartet pays homage to legends

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — M.C. Escher was a Dutch graphic artist known for his impossible mathematical constructions of staircases to nowhere.

In 2005, the Escher String Quartet adopted his name as symbolic of four musicians coming together to create something larger than themselves.

The Avery Fisher Career Grant artists will perform in Santa Fe in St. Francis Auditorium on Saturday, Jan. 13.

“Bach was rather well-known for inserting mathematics into his compositions, often hidden,” cellist Brook Speltz said in a telephone interview from a date in West Palm Beach, Fla. “And anyway, a quartet needs a name.”

In Santa Fe, the group will open with Haydn’s Quartet in G Major, Op. 76, No 1.

“He wrote 68,” Speltz said. “Of course, we call him the father of the string quartet and the father of the symphony. His compositions were as daring as any music being written at the time; he was one of the most forward-thinking. This is him at his most mature and at the height of his powers.”

Music by the award-winning Hungarian composer György Kurtág will follow with Hommage à Jacob Obrect and Hommage à Mihály András (12 Microludes).

“He’s still alive,” Speltz said. “I believe he’s in his 90s. He’s one of the great Hungarian composers after the second World War.”

The relatively recent “Obrecht” pairs well with the Haydn, he added. The “Microludes” are snippets tied together to create a palette of texture and sound.

The Quartet in A minor, Op. 132 was one of Beethoven’s last works, Speltz said.

“The Beethoven is one of the great powerhouse quartets,” he continued, “probably most famous for its third movement. … It’s on the short list of the most beautiful things ever written.”

Currently Season Artists of New York’s Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Escher Quartet was championed by the Emerson Quartet and invited by Pinchas Zukerman and Itzhak Perlman to be the quartet in residence at the violinists’ festivals.