The St. Lawrence, a Canadian group founded in 1989, makes its Chicago debut with a program that includes a work for string quartet and clarinet by the eclectic Argentinean composer Osvaldo Golijov, The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind. Inspired by the writings of a 13th-century kabbalistic rabbi, it brings Jewish cantorial prayers and the high-flying acrobatics of klezmer clarinet into the relatively placid world of the string quartet: Hebrew prayers meet gently pulsing Steve Reich-esque meditations meet unbuttoned klezmer cries. In the liner notes to the EMI recording the St. Lawrence made with Todd Palmer, Golijov writes that he thought the work could be played correctly only by a klezmer clarinetist but that the classically trained Palmer had changed his mind. Palmer is clearly familiar with the tradition's intricacies--wailing, falling off notes, occasionally playing off pitch, and generally making listeners feel he's at the farthest emotional edge. The quartet's members--violinists Geoff Nuttall and Barry Shiffman, violist Lesley Robertson, and cellist Chris Costanza--are equally in tune with the work's demands, eloquently conjuring up an inescapable sadness. The rest of the program consists of Ravel's delicate String Quartet in F and Haydn's Quartet in B Minor, op. 64 no. 2. Friday, February 20, 8 PM, Mandel Hall, University of Chicago, 1131 E. 57th; 773-702-8068.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michele Clement.