Regional Music Preview: SZYMANOWSKI QUARTET WITH JOSEPH KALICHSTEIN, PIANO (Samueli Theater in Costa Mesa)

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by Tony Frankel on January 26, 2015

in Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-Regional


I’ve been on a chamber music kick for about four years now. From intimate salons in living rooms to concert halls, I’m discovering composers I’ve never heard of who have—for reasons beyond their amazing work—frustratingly not become ensconced in the repertoire. I’ve also been introduced to pieces by well-known composers that are so achingly beautiful it makes me wish that salons had full runs just as theater does. Recordings do a fine job of capturing the flavor of chamber music, but there’s nothing more soothing, cultured, and reassuringly communal as attending a live concert.

Szymanowski Quartet. Grzegorz Kotow, Agata Szymczewska, Marcin Sieniawski and Volodia Mykytka.

Especially when you discover a chamber outfit as electrifying as the Szymanowski Quartet, the Polish ensemble named after the famed composer Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937). I was introduced to them last year at a Da Camera Society event, and they were unlike any of the dozens of quartets I know. They have a gorgeously heartfelt, shimmering sound, and each of the four musicians brings character and expression to every piece. Impassioned with a rich quality, the quartet offers inquisitive interpretations of a variety of composers. As a bonus, they are as enchanting to watch as they are to hear.

Szymanowski Quartet - Grzegorz Kotow, Agata Szymczewska, Marcin Sieniawski and Volodia Mykytka.

This Saturday, January 31, the Quartet returns to Samueli Theater at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, but only for one night. Equally exciting is that they will be joined by the celebrated Israeli-born American classical pianist Joseph Kalichstein for Dvorák’s sublime Piano Quintet No. 2, possibly the composer’s greatest achievement in the genre, and one of the masterpieces in the form.

Szymanowski Quartet --Grzegorz Kotow, Agata Szymczewska, Marcin Sieniawski and Volodia Mykytka.

As they have before, Szymanowski offers an intriguing menu of works we seldom hear, ranging from 16th to the 20th Century. They honor their heritage and homeland with three Polish Chorales, arranged by the quartet; few of these works survive, and this collection by Leopolita (Mihi autem, c.1580), Chrzanow (Protexisti Kalichstein_Josephme, deus, c. 1560), and Cracow (Aleć made mna Wenus, c. 1540) will introduce you to a world of pre-Baroque substance and charm.

At Samueli, the ensemble continues the exploration begun on their last visit of the work of Grazyna Bacewicz (String Quartet No. 4, 1951), who achieved rare international fame as a female Eastern European composer. Also on the program is Penderecki’s String Quartet No 3, Leaves of an unwritten diary, written in 2008, the same year the fascinating piece premiered in Warsaw (it was also the year of the composer’s seventy-fifth birthday). In between these is even more beauty: Ballade No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 52, one of Chopin’s four ballades—one-movement pieces for solo piano—composed in 1842. Of the four Ballades, some of the most challenging pieces in the standard piano repertoire, the No. 4 is considered by many pianists to be the most difficult, both technically and musically.


Szymanowski Quartet
Agata Szymczewska, Violin
Grzegorz Kotów, Violin
Vladimir Mykytka, Viola
Marcin Sieniawski, Cello
Samueli Theater
Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa
Saturday, January 31, 2015 at 8:00
preview talk by Herbert Glass at 7:15
for tickets, call 714.556.2787 or visit

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