American String Project

Bernard Herrmann’s lushly morose 1965 Echoes for string quartet shows a master film composer’s ability to wring maximum effect from the fewest notes. Its creepy, waltzy, utterly simple “Nocturne,” for instance, sounds like something Norman Bates’ mother listens to in the basement. That moment comes about eight minutes into the 20-minute piece, which Herrmann cast in an unbroken span of 10 musical episodes—like brief scenes for a movie Alfred Hitchcock never made. It’s the novelty among three programs of this weekend’s American String Project, the annual gathering, led by Barry Lieberman and Maria Larionoff, of 15 of the best string players from across the country. Most of the ASP’s repertory is Lieberman’s artful and effective expansions of string quartets into orchestra pieces (thus including himself for a change—as a bassist, he’s left out of 99.8 percent of the chamber-music repertory). Tonight’s quartets, to open the minifestival, are Echoes, Mendelssohn’s F minor, and Tchaikovsky’s Third. GAVIN BORCHERT

Thu., May 14, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., May 16, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., May 17, 2 p.m., 2009

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