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Keeping L.A. in Czech

CSUN will begin its chamber music season with Talich Quartet.

October 13, 2000|JOSEF WOODARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

For more than half a century, the Music Guild has been making Los Angeles safe for chamber music, particularly for visiting string quartets from around the world. They bring groups that may not have the highest public profile but are generally of a high musical order.

As of last year, their Valley component moved from Pierce College to the Performing Arts Center at Cal State Northridge, a cleaner acoustical space in which to savor the intimate sounds chamber music offers.

The 2000-2001 season at CSUN begins Monday night with the respected Talich Quartet from the Czech Republic. The program will include indigenous music by Antonin Dvorak, Leos Janacek and Josef Suk.

The sturdy, venerable Talich Quartet was formed in 1964. First violinist Jan Talich Jr., who has been with the group for four years, is the son of the quartet's founding first violinist, Jan Talich Sr. He, in turn, is the nephew of the celebrated Czech musician Vaclav Talich, who founded the Czech Philharmonic.

On the phone from Prague last week, the 33-year-old junior Talich spoke about the current quartet, made up of thirtysomethings and a 29-year-old cellist.

Talich has followed a familial path into music that is part of a cultural tradition. He is also the founding director of the Czech Chamber Orchestra but makes the quartet a priority.

"I grew up listening to string quartet music," he said.

"There is a very big tradition in the Czech Republic for chamber music and string quartets especially. I played in string quartets in school at the conservatory. So I was very happy when they asked me to join the quartet."

He said he appreciates the string quartet setting.

"It's very clean and, from a musical point of view, it's very pure. It's very difficult and demanding. It takes time and dedication to the group. You're not playing in an orchestra with a hundred people, but you spend even more time together."

The Talich Quartet of old built up a huge catalog of recordings of Czech composers, but also of the complete quartets of Beethoven, Bartok and Mozart.

The new Talich plans to go into the studio soon to record the complete quartets of Mendelssohn and possibly a special project--music written by Jewish Czech composers in World War II concentration camps.

Talich said he believes audiences need to be educated about contemporary music before it can become palatable. He appreciates Leonard Bernstein's lectures and the populist-bridging of violinist Nigel Kennedy, who doesn't dress the part of classical soloist and is prone to include Jimi Hendrix in the repertoire.

Does this mean the Talich would consider playing Hendrix?

"We enjoy doing unusual arrangements for string quartet. It would be fun, taking one's mind away from Beethoven and Dvorak. Yes, we would like to do something like that."

For now, Dvorak it is.

BE THERE

The Talich Quartet performs Monday at 8 p.m. at the Cal State Northridge Performing Arts Center, 18111 Nordhoff St. $24 general, $19 seniors, $7 students, $5 CSUN students. (310) 552-3030.

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