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Bethel Quartet to give recital of Dvorak, Mendelssohn

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. -- The Bethel Quartet will give a recital on Thursday, May 12, at 7:30 p.m. in the Administration Building chapel on the Bethel College campus. Admission is free and open to the public. The Bethel Quartet was established in Fall 2001. Its members are string instructors at Bethel College and the Bethel College Academy of Performing Arts in Newton, as well as members of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra.

Nancy Johnson, first violin, is also the principal second violin with the Wichita Symphony. Rebecca Schloneger, second violin, directs the Suzuki violin program for BCAPA. Both Kay Buskirk, viola, and Susan Mayo, cello, teach in the Wichita metropolitan area.

On the program are two string quartets, Quartet No. 12 in F major, Op. 96 "American" by Antonin Dvorak, and Quartet in D major, Op. 44 No. 1 by Felix Mendelssohn.

When Dvorak arrived in New York in September 1892 to begin his tenure as director of the city’s Conservatory of Music, America was the backwater of the music world. However, Dvorak was struck both by the American spirit and by the amazing lack of support for music in America. During his time in the United States, Dvorak traveled to the Midwest, spending a few summers in Spillville, Iowa, which had a thriving Czech community.

Dvorak composed his "American" quartet in June 1893, with its first performance in Boston on New Year’s Day 1894. Each movement makes use of the non-tonal scales he had heard in African-American and Native American melodies. Each of the movements uses these American traits, evoking the prairies, drum beats, cowboys and the call of the bird that Dvorak heard in the woods near Spillville.

Felix Mendelssohn was not a typical musician for his time-- he was Jewish (although his father converted to Protestantism and added the surname Bartholdy to the family name), from a wealthy family and happily married with five children. Perhaps this stable life contributed to the energy of his output. His music is cheerful, energetic, often elf-like in its lightness. The quartets of Opus 44 were written in 1837-1838, although what is now numbered 1 was actually written last.

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