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Quartet settles into Sunday program with new name
November 29, 2011

Photo by John Forrest

"What's in a name?" Shakespeare once famously asked. Quite a lot, learned the members of the Clipper Mill String Quartet, which plays at the next Sundays at Three chamber music concert, Dec. 4.

The group, which is made up of three full-time members of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra plus a frequent substitute, has been playing together upward of four years. Yet, they only chose a moniker in the past year or so, according to violinist Ivan Stefanovic.

Although the ensemble had garnered an impressive reputation performing at various concert venues around the region, choosing an actual name proved to its members they were in it for the long haul with this side project, despite their day job commitments.

"We realized we play together well and fit together as people," Stefanovic explains. "That's important. We spend so many hours together rehearsing, and having to get along and bounce ideas off each other that personalities are just as important to match as musical personalities."

So the group chose a name referencing a section of Baltimore City near where some of the musicians live. Besides Stefanovic, those musicians include BSO violinist Kenneth Goldstein, BSO violist Karen Brown and cellist and/Peabody faculty member Daniel Levitov (who is also married to Brown).

The group's collaborative nature is emphasized by its Sundays at Three program, which includes works suggested by several members. The bill includes two lesser-known works in Bed¿ich Smetana's String Quartet No. 1, "From My Life" (suggested by Stefanovic) and Karol Szymanowski's String Quartet No. 1 in C Major, Op. 37 (suggested by Levitov).

Rounding out the bill will be a composition by perennial favorite Ludwig van Beethoven, String Quartet in E Minor, Op. 59, No. 2, "Razumovsky."

"We try to balance the known and somewhat unknown," Stefanovic says. "Smetana, a Czech composer, is probably better known than Szymanowski, who is a Polish composer."

Stefanovic says he first discovered the Smetana piece when he performed in a string quartet in college and found it "a very powerful piece." It's subtitled "From My Life" and it "really does take you through the composer's entire life."

That includes the composer's deafness, which is musically depicted by an abrupt, high-pitched violin note that interrupts the piece.

"It's the noise he heard when he went completely deaf," explains Stefanovic. "It kept getting stronger and eventually overpowered his hearing. It's just startling to hear that suddenly out of nowhere."

Although Stefanovic has performed several times as part of the Sundays at Three series, this is the first time the Clipper Mill String Quartet will perform at the series as a unit.

"I most recently played with a guitarist and before that, with a quartet," he says. "But we'll make our debut Sunday with this concert."

The Clipper Mill String Quartet performs at the Sundays at Three series Dec. 4, 3 p.m., at Christ Episcopal Church in Columbia (Oakland Mills Road, opposite Dobbin Road). Admission is $15. Anyone age 17 and younger will be admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Go to http://www.SundaysAtThree.org or call 443-288-3179.

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