Once again, the Lydian String Quartet brought music to Brandeis at the It’s About Time (Part 2) performance last Wednesday. 

The performance was a sneak preview to their full concert, which took place in Slosberg Recital Hall this past weekend and featured the musical talents of Daniel Stepner and Judith Eissenberg (violins), Mark Berger (viola) and Joshua Gordon (cello). 

Set in the Mandel Atrium during a busy lunch hour, the performance attracted a diverse audience and captured the attention of passersby. 

After a brief introduction from Deborah Rosenstein, the Concert program manager of the music department, the quartet began their performance by explaining the two pieces they would play: String Quartet No. 4 “Amazing Grace” (1973) and String Quartet No. 2 (1907-1911). 

Eissenberg first spoke, explaining that the quartet has used tradition as a resource for their performance. 

Berger explained that Ben Johnston, the composer of the first piece, is an American experimental composer and, although underplayed, is still important to the genre. 

The piece starts off very simply, using a pentatonic scale of five notes, but then gradually adds more pitches and energy to the piece. After a subtle beginning almost exactly like the original “Amazing Grace,” the piece turns into a much more energetic song yet still relies heavily on the hymn to ground the piece. 

Overall, the quartet wonderfully executed a performance that the audience is immediately familiar with due to the popularity of “Amazing Grace.” 

However, Johnston’s reinterpretation of the hymn adds interesting layers of slow and dreamlikemusic, contrasting with the heavy and romantic sounds that came later. These twists helped keep the audience intrigued and interested.

String Quarter No. 2, composed by Charles Ives, contained three parts: “Discussions,” “Arguments” and “The Call of the Mountains.” Each section had its own personality and style. 

Eissenberg explained that the piece resembles things emerging, like the childhood art project of scratching off black ink to reveal the bright colors underneath. 

Ives is one of the most written about and known American composers, the quartet explained. They also explained that this particular piece is a collision of sounds, similar to a stream-of-consciousness style. “Discussions” begins very dramatically and, as it progressed, sounded almost like a conversation between two people. The second part, “Arguments,” was much lighter and also included a wonderful, brief solo by Eissenberg. The final part began with a slow and eerie start and builds as the piece progresses, reminding me of a mountain slope. 

The piece ends slowly, with a very high pitched sound emanating from the strings as the musicians’ bows hardly moved across the strings. 

Overall, the sneak preview of the Quartet’s performance was an entertaining and accessible hour filled with captivating music. Although taking an hour off from essays or job applications may seem daunting, the music was a calming reminder to take a break and relax as we near the end of the semester.