Spring's Strings

The Arizona Friend's Chamber Music commission the remarkable Muir Quartet.

This town harbors lots of new music in every style imaginable, but the best-kept secret in Tucson is new chamber music. Yeah, you read that right. Over the past few years the Arizona Friends of Chamber Music has quietly become one of the most active commissioning organizations in the country. Largely due to the ambitious spirit of its president, Jean-Paul Bierny, the group seeks out and funds composers writing in the chamber music medium. Other presenters might program a "new" work that has been proven not to offend previous audiences. The Friends of Chamber Music take a risk with every commission, and in doing so they help keep classical music vital. This would be remarkable enough, but the Friends of Chamber Music are also careful to pair their composers with world-renowned performing ensembles.

On Wednesday, a new string quartet by composer Joelle Wallach will be given pride of place alongside repertory favorites by Mozart and Dvorak. Commissioned by the Arizona Friends of Chamber Music and subtitled "In a slight ripple, the mind perceives the heart," this is Wallach's second string quartet (her first was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize). Wallach is active in New York City where, in addition to her composing, she has served as a pre-concert lecturer for the New York Philharmonic.

The exceptional Muir String Quartet will perform the concert. Now in its 21st season, the Muir is really a quartet of virtuoso soloists. First violinist Peter Zazofsky was well known to concert audiences when he joined the Muir in 1987. Lucia Lin somehow manages to play Second Violin in this busy group while keeping her job with the Boston Symphony. Violist Steven Ansell and cellist Michael Reynolds are founding members of the quartet, and in that capacity they have won numerous prestigious awards, including a Naumburg, and the Grand Prix du Disque.

Named after the naturalist and Sierra Club founder John Muir, this Grammy-nominated quartet channels proceeds from sales of its "EcoClassics" CDs to support environmental causes. So buy a recording at intermission.

The Muir String Quartet performs at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, April 4, in the Leo Rich Theatre at the Tucson Convention Center, 110 S. Church Ave. Tickets are $15, $5 for students. For more information call 577-3769.