The Chamber Music Society of San Francisco (CMS of SF) is a string quartet whose members are (left-to-right in the photograph above) cellist Samsun van Loon, violinists Natasha Makhijani and Jory Fankuchen, and violist Clio Tilton. When this group announced its fall concert this past October, the program included pianist Keisuke Nakagoshi as guest artist. The group’s next concert will take place near the end of this month, and another guest artist will again be included in the program.
This time the guest will be clarinetist Steve Sánchez, providing the necessary complement of instruments for a performance of Johannes Brahms’ Opus 115 quintet in B minor. This is the second of the four pieces that Brahms composed when listening to Richard Mühlfeld, clarinetist with the Meiningen orchestra, lured him away from his commitment to retire from composing. There is a poignancy to the rhetoric of all four of those pieces, but it is probably most deeply expressed through the heartfelt sigh that is the final gesture in the last movement of Opus 115.
The Brahms selection will be coupled with Dmitri Shostakovich’s Opus 118 (tenth) string quartet. This was composed in 1964, by which time Shostakovich had probably managed free himself from his dark memories of Joseph Stalin (who had by then been dead for over ten years); but physical maladies were beginning to replace psychological ones. In 1958 he discovered that his right hand had been debilitated to a point where he had to give up playing the piano. That condition would be diagnosed as poliomyelitis in 1965, but it is easy to imagine that Shostakovich’s work on Opus 118 was haunted by a feeling of oncoming helplessness. (By 1967 Shostakovich joked in a letter that he was anticipating when “100% of my extremities will be out of order;” and the final measures of this quartet almost seem to anticipate that anticipation.) He dedicated the quartet to Mieczysław Weinberg, who had his own problems with Stalin and was only rescued from prosecution because Stalin died while the case against him was being formulated.
This concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, January 27, and is expected to last about two hours. It will take place at Holy Innocent’s Episcopal Church, which is located in the Mission at 455 Fair Oaks Street. Ticket prices at the door will be $20 with a $5 rate for those aged eighteen and under. Tickets may be purchased online in advance through an Eventbrite event page; and this “Early Bird” rate will be only $14 for general admission.