The Washington Post

Aizuri Quartet’s program draws from 12th-century, contempora­ry composers

- BY CHARLES T. DOWNEY style@washpost.com

As part of its mission, the National Museum of Women in the Arts hosts a free concert series featuring female performers. It concluded its 20th season Wednesday evening with a performanc­e by the excellent Aizuri Quartet, formed in 2012.

Their surprising program also featured two works composed by women, from opposite ends of music history. The first, “Columba Aspexit,” was a sequence by Hildegard of Bingen, a Benedictin­e abbess of the 12th century. A simple arrangemen­t by Alex Fortes cast the chant’s single line against a drone. Playing mostly without vibrato, the quartet reached a monastic unison in the last verse, silently honoring the feast of Saint Maximin of Trier (May 29).

Gabriella Smith also drew on the music of her milieu in “Carrot Revolution,” commission­ed for the Aizuri Quartet in 2015. Inspired by the eclectic arrangemen­t of paintings in the Barnes Foundation, she juxtaposed recent popular music and historical music in a funky, active tapestry. Cellist Karen Ouzounian beat rhythms on the body of her instrument, while Ariana Kim, on second violin for most of the program, scrubbed the strings for a washboard-like sound.

The musicians championed sounding like a martial drumbeat at one point.

Komitas Vartabed set his nation’s melodies more straightfo­rwardly in his “Armenian Folk Songs,” sometimes with the feel of folk instrument­s. Beethoven’s String Quartet in E- flat, nicknamed the “Harp,” made an astounding conclusion, with violinist Miho Saegusa switching places with Kim. The musicians ( including Ayane Kozasa on viola) again applied vibrato conservati­vely, imbuing the slow movement with intense melancholy and giving the bracing Scherzo a buzz of energy, like a shot of espresso.

 ?? ERICA LYN ?? Aizuri Quartet (from left, violinist Miho Saegusa, violist Ayane Kozasa, violinist Ariana Kim and cellist Karen Ouzounian) closed National Museum of Women in the Arts’ series with a strong program. this new music expertly, as they did for Lembit...
ERICA LYN Aizuri Quartet (from left, violinist Miho Saegusa, violist Ayane Kozasa, violinist Ariana Kim and cellist Karen Ouzounian) closed National Museum of Women in the Arts’ series with a strong program. this new music expertly, as they did for Lembit...

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