The Pacifica Quartet was founded in Los Angeles in 1994, and only four years later, still an upstart for a string quartet, it nabbed the Naumburg prize in chamber music. Now in residence at both the University of Chicago and the Music Institute of Chicago, the Pacifica has joined the growing pool of fine young ensembles poised to take over from the likes of the Juilliard and the Kronos. Displaying intellectual curiosity and disciplined, nuanced musicianship, its players foster the sort of rapport–with one another and with their audiences–that distinguishes an exceptional group from a merely good one. At the U. of C. they’re also current members of the Contemporary Chamber Players, where they delve into the 20th-century repertoire; the Pacifica has a knack for the new that eludes many other quartets still establishing a working knowledge of the classical canon. The group’s Mandel Hall program this Sunday sandwiches Chicagoan Robert Kritz’s String Quintet, written in 1946, between Beethoven’s Quartet in C Minor, op. 18, no. 4, and Schumann’s Quartet in A Minor. Kritz studied at Northwestern in the 40s but gave up composing in 1950: he had a family to support and needed a steady income. In 1994, after decades in graphic design, he showed his old quintet to a professor at Northwestern, and with extensive revisions, the rhapsodic, Ravelian work has gone on to inspire a cultish enthusiasm among performers and audiences fed up with academic atonality. The music ought to highlight the Pacifica’s penchant for lyricism and intricate textures, and the ensemble should in turn bring out the piece’s grace and gentle yearning. Joining the Pacifica for the Kritz will be violist Roland Vamos, a teacher at Oberlin and the Music Institute and the father of the quartet’s first-rate cellist, Brandon Vamos; the other members are first violinist Simin Ganatra, violist Kathryn Lockwood, and second violinist Isabel Trautwein, who joined last summer. Sunday, 3 PM, Mandel Hall, University of Chicago, 1131 E. 57th St.; 773-702-8069.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Andrew Martin.