The Cassatt Quartet brought an outstanding presentation of Americana to the Sheldon Friends of Chamber Music on Sunday.
A first, in a way, was the performance of Wahoo native Howard Hanson's "String Quartet, Opus 23." The work had been long forgotten, but SFCM's Dorothy Chung Javorsky dug it out and persuaded the Cassatt Quartet to play it in Lincoln.
Hanson wrote some almost beautiful countermelody phrases in the work's slow section. Cassatt proceeded to cut a valiant rendering of the quartet.
Most of us have heard the orchestral version of the Samuel Barber "Adagio for Strings." It's originally from the composer's "String Quartet, Opus 11."
Cassatt started in on the entire work. But the group stopped soon. Some strange sounds came from Jennifer Leshnower's violin. A rarity in concert, one of the tuning pegs had slipped loose.
Leshnower quickly re-tightened the peg and tuned, and the work started over. Unruffled, the quartet brought ravishing beauty and a hint of Romanticism to Barber's small masterpiece.
The Gabriela Lena Frank "Quijotadas" was composed three years ago and is based on Cervantes' "Don Quijote" illusions.
Of the five "Quijotadas" the second, "Seguidilla," was plucked, reminiscent of the Spanish guitar. The "Asturianada" was a pretty haughty take on Quijote's encounter with the Cave of Montesinos, and the quartet did a masterful job of navigating it.
The Daniel Godfrey "String Quartet No. 2" takes on a more tuneful, tonal cast than many late-20th century pieces.
Cassatt stressed that tonality through careful delineation of the phrasing and rhythmic patterns.
Good interpretation of inner voices in the final movement was the convincing argument for Cassatt's unique ability to create listener attention and develop a respect, if not acceptance, of this piece.
Cellist Nicole Johnson had the responsibility to keep the motion in place for the other instruments in the Godfrey work. Johnson has Lincoln ties: Her grandmother Ruth Johnson lives here and is a longtime music educator and violinist.