As a general and liaison for France, Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette played a pivotal role not only in the American Revolutionary War but also the French Revolution later. The name bespeaks a figure of tremendous political intrigue and triumph. Yet many are unaware that the city of Fayetteville, North Carolina, is so named after Lafayette – and was the first city in America to honor the Marquis in this way. More than 250 years ago, he even visited here. Lafayette was, essentially, the French champion for the idea of a United States of America. So, it is only appropriate that the Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra put on a concert called “The French Connection” that pays homage to these roots. The Fayetteville Symphony String Quartet will perform Maurice Ravel’s “String Quartet” at St. John’s Episcopal Church Jan. 11 at 7:30 p.m. This concert is the fourth in FSO’s Carolina-themed 2017-18 season.
Ravel’s “String Quartet” is an interesting choice because it is not the obvious one. Ravel gained prominence around the same time as Claude Debussy, a contemporary who is perhaps better known today. However, both were regarded as trailblazers within the French impressionist movement. This movement parallels the art movement of the same name in that musicians were composing work that broke from tradition of the time. Following the era of romanticism, impressionists often substituted excess with restraint, abundance for blinding clarity.
Though Ravel never received the Prix de Rome – a prestigious award for composers – as Debussy did, he is often regarded as the better composer rather than player. In fact, Arbie Orenstein once wrote in The American Scholar, “Ravel’s small output, emotional reticence and innovation within tradition were coupled with an unrivaled technical mastery of his craft.”
Finished in 1903, Ravel’s “String Quartet” follows a classical structure of four movements and is modeled after Debussy’s “String Quartet” written 10 years prior. According to numerous sources, though, it’s Ravel’s experimentation with harmony that sets it apart from all others.
Every year in January, the FSO hosts a chamber music concert at St. John’s Episcopal Church. According to Christine Kastner, FSO president and CEO, the location only seats 300 people, which contrasts greatly with the full orchestra concerts that seat upward of 1,000.
“Because you’re so close, you can really see and appreciate each instrument,” said Kastner. “There will be four people playing, and you can really detect the sound of the individual instruments. It’s a neat setting for people who really want to have the chance to be up close and more personal and have that kind of intimate experience. It feels really cozy in January to be in there.”
St. John’s Episcopal Church is located at 302 Green St. The concert runs for approximately an hour and a half. Tickets are available at www.fayettevillesymphony.org.