An icy lament, inspired by Ferguson

Los Angeles Piano Quartet performs new music by WashU’s Christopher Stark March 28

In the summer of 2014, St. Louis composer Christopher Stark began work on a new commission. It didn’t go as planned.

Inspired by a recent trip to Assisi, Italy, Stark set out to create a piano quartet that would explore the boundaries between the natural and manmade worlds — a resonant theme for the rural Montana native.

But in late August, as Stark began work on the second movement, an unarmed 18-year-old man was fatally shot by a police officer in nearby Ferguson, Mo. Stark, assistant professor of music in Arts & Sciences at Washington University St. Louis, was deeply affected.

“I found it increasingly difficult to continue developing the spritely opening material when there was such intense injustice happening nearby,” Stark said. “The unfastened form and crumbling development were my attempt to respond to this.

“The second movement begins as a quirky and pointed gigue that ultimately comes unhinged and disintegrates into bouncing bows and austere piano chords,” he said. “Icy versions of previous motifs follow and slowly accelerate toward a sudden echoing lament.”

The Los Angeles Piano Quartet

St. Louis premiere

Last October, the acclaimed Los Angeles Piano Quartet presented the world premiere of Stark’s new piece at the Chamber Music Society of Louisville.

But at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 28, St. Louis audiences will have their first opportunity to experience Stark’s Piano Quartet live when the ensemble visits Washington University’s E. Desmond Lee Concert Hall.

Tickets are $20, or $15 for seniors and Washington University faculty and staff, and $5 for students. The E. Desmond Lee Concert Hall is located in the 560 Music Center, at 560 Trinity Ave., in University City.

Founded in 1977, the Los Angeles Piano Quartet is widely recognized as one of the premier piano quartets in the United States. The group has performed for major chamber presenters across the country and is an active force in the creation of new works, commissioning original pieces by prominent contemporary composers such as Stephen Hartke, Gerard Schurmann and Pulitzer Prize-winner Steven Stucky, among others.

The current lineup consists of four renowned concert musicians: violinist Mikhail Kopelman, violist Katherine Murdock, cellist Steven Doane and pianist Xak Bjerken.

In addition to Stark’s Piano Quartet, the March 28 program will feature Cello Sonata, Op. 6 (1932) by Samuel Barber and Piano Quartet No. 2, Op. 87 (1889) by Antonin Dvořák.

Tickets are available online here, at the door, and at the Edison Theatre Box Office, located in the Mallinckrodt Center, 6465 Forsyth Blvd. The composition of Stark’s Piano Quartet was made possible by a grant from the Fromm Music Foundation.

For more information, call 314-935-5566 or email