The Pain Of A World War II Refugee Painted Through Music

Feb 23, 2017



As a way of giving students access to professional performers and to enhance the cultural opportunities in Northern Utah, Utah State University’s Caine College of The Arts, has a group of string artists known as the The Fry Street Quartet.  

The artists in residence traveled the nation for their Crossroads Project, using their music to help address issues of global sustainability. This past week, they used their platform to feature the works of a contemporary composer whose personal experience with physical barriers during World War II inspired him to use music as a way of dealing with loss.

Cellist Anne Francis Bayless, violinists Robert Waters and Rebecca McFaul along with violist Bradley Otteson make up the Fry Street Quartet.


“In many ways," Bayless said, "this was a very standard string quartet program,”


Bayless said the first selection of the performance was Haydn’s String Quartet in C Major, opus 76., no. 3.


“It started with classical period Haydn," she said. "Generally considered to be the father of the string quartet. He was the one who took this configuration of instruments and really saw it’s possibility. Before that nobody had really done that. So it’s very typical to start with that.”


From there the quartet transitioned, deviating from a traditional form to a sound that is considered to be more majestic, even commanding, that of Beethoven.  


“An audience can normally expect to have a Beethoven quartet anchor the second half of the program," Bayless said. "Big, usually somewhat romantic and a Bartok or something else contemporary in the middle. That’s the classic order. But in this case, the Serioso quartet is F minor opus 95 of Beethoven. It’s very, very compact. It’s an interesting quartet in his repertoire. He wrote a lot of string quartets and this one is quite interesting also to note because he did not intend for this one to be published.”


As the evening performance came to an end, this quartet used the final work to remind the audience - and maybe even introducing for the first time - the Bela Bartok piece that represents his way of dealing with border issues in the 1960’s.


The piece was written for a friend who Bartok could no longer communicate with because of the physical barriers placed between them by the Berlin wall.  The piece was completed by the composer during his last few years of life in the United states, following his immigration from Hungary.


“This piece in particular with Bartok was such an incredibly emotional message, with something very deep and dark," Bayless said. "We couldn’t not end in it. We couldn’t put that in the middle of a program because gosh, what could follow that?”