The string quartet will bring its classical-meets-universal hybrid to the Lensic Performing Arts Center on Friday, Feb. 9.
Currently on tour with banjo master Béla Fleck in other cities,, the group will perform some Mozart and Ravel, as well as two contemporary works, violist Nicholas Cords said in a telephone interview from Salina, Kansas.
“We try not to say one thing is better than another,” he said. “We play Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. But we’re also working a lot with living composers.
“We’ve also collaborated with musicians who are really outside the realm of string quartets and often outside the realm of classical music.”
The program will open with Mozart’s String Quartet in G Major, k. 387.
“It’s one of our favorite quartets of all time,” Cords said. “It’s one of the quartets Mozart dedicated to Haydn. It has that musician-to-musician kind of feeling. It’s very fun to play. The last movement is something of a masterpiece.”
Next up is American post-minimalist composer Evan Ziporyn’s “Qi.”
“He’s a great virtuosic clarinet player,” Cords said. “He teaches at MIT. He’s one of the world experts on Indonesian gamelan music.”
Gamelan is the traditional ensemble music of Java and Bali in Indonesia, made up predominantly of percussive instruments. A work in three movements, “Qi” features a Zen meditation and appears on the group’s latest release, “Spontaneous Symbols.”
The quartet will segue from Ziporyn to the bossa nova of Brazilian composer JoÃ£o Gilberto’s “Undiu.”
“It’s meant to be the song of what a bird sings,” Cords said.
The musicians will finish with Ravel’s String Quartet. The composer completed the work in early April 1903 at the age of 28. It premiered in Paris in March the next year.
“The idea there is ‘Undiu’ is this rhythmic tapestry,” Cords said. “I think that leads into the world of Ravel. He was very much looking to the outside world for inspiration. I think there was a lot of Iberian influence of the Spanish peninsula. It might remind you of old church music or a flamenco guitar, it’s just so rich.”
Cords grew up in Michigan and has lived in (where else?) Brooklyn, N.Y., for 20 years. He attended the Juilliard School as well as the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.
“We weren’t all in school at the same time,” he said of his colleagues, “but we met at the time of school. We discovered we shared similar musical values. Béla described it like a marriage, not that it’s always easygoing.”
Cords begins teaching at Boston’s New England Conservatory of Music this year. He was recently named co-director of the Silk Road Ensemble, founded by famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma.