The Ulster Chamber Music Series (UCMS) has been bringing top-tier performers and programming to the region for 47 years and counting. Proximity to a major international music center has no doubt been an advantage, and that will certainly be the case on Sunday, February 7, when UCMS launches its 48th season with a performance by the lauded Manhattan String Quartet. The Quartet’s program covers Classical, Romantic and Modernist touchstones with quartets by Mozart, Brahms and the great American eccentric and regional notable, Charles Ives.
Like the great Modernist poet Wallace Stevens, with whom he would lunch at the Hartford Canoe Club, Ives was more famous as a forward-thinking insurance executive (arguably the father of estate planning) than as a composer in his own lifetime. While he stopped composing decades before his death and was relatively obscure in his own lifetime, Ives did live to hear Bernstein conduct several of his symphonies, and their warm reception might have given him a passing glimpse of the prestige that his work would gain after his death the 1950s.
The Manhattan String Quartet – itself an institution well into its fifth decade – will be tackling Ives’s well-known String Quartet No. 1, in which Ives’s background as a student and composer of hymns is in full effect. Given Ives’s reputation as a master of polytonality and the other forms of harmonic ambiguity responsible for the new ears of the 20th century, this quartet is surprisingly accessible and comfortably folksy even as – especially in its final two movements – it goes to densely colored Modernist places that were quite revolutionary in their own time.
Mozart’s Quartet in B flat Major (also known as “The Hunt”) and the String Quartet No. 3 by Brahms round out the program. Like all UCMS programs, this concert will be held at 3 p.m. at the Church of the Holy Cross at 30 Pine Grove Avenue in Kingston. Tickets cost $25 general admission and $20 for seniors. People aged 18 and under are admitted free. For more information, visit www.ulsterchambermusicseries.org.