World-class Music Within Steps of Offices

Ciompi Quartet offers free "Lunchtime Classic" concert on Feb. 12

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Members of the Ciompi quartet, from top, are Jonathan Bagg, Fred Raimi, Eric Pritchard and Hsiao-mei Ku.

Internationally acclaimed Ciompi Quartet, known for its musical sophistication and warm unified sound, will perform its final "Lunchtime Classics" concert of the academic year on Feb. 12.

The concert, which begins at 12 p.m. in the Gothic Reading Room of Perkins Library, is free and open to the Duke community and general public.

"It's absolutely amazing to be able to just walk down the hall on your lunch break and hear a world class ensemble without tickets," said Sara Seten Berghausen, librarian for literature and theatre at Duke's Perkins Library.

The Ciompi Quartet, whose members are faculty in Duke's music department, have played together for 20 years and tour nationally and internationally. The quartet offers the "Lunchtime Classics" concerts on campus several times during the academic year to introduce string quartet music to the community. In addition, Ciompi Quartet offers paid performances, including an upcoming concert on Jan. 27 for $20.

The free "Lunchtime Classics" concerts are each an hour-long and begin with a quartet member offering a brief introduction and historical context for the piece to be played.

Jonathan Bagg, who has played viola with the quartet for 20 years, said the informal introductions are part of the draw of "Lunchtime Classics" performances. During the Feb. 12 concert, which is the final free concert of the academic year, the quartet will perform the third of Ludwig von Beethoven's Op. 59 string quartets.

"Audiences generally want to have some nugget to think about, to help them approach the music," Bagg said. "We have an understanding that one of us will start the ball rolling and then another of us might add a comment or a different point of view. It's much less formal than a usual concert."

Berghausen, the librarian at Perkins, was among about 160 people who attended a"Lunchtime Classic" concert last December.

Before the music that day, Fred Raimi, who has played cello with the quartet since 1974, introduced the second of Beethoven's Op. 59 quartets. The piece, Raimi told the audience, was the second of three quartets Beethoven composed between April and October 1806 for the Russian ambassador to Vienna, Prince Razumovsky.

From her seat, Berghausen watched members of the Ciompi Quartet with bows hovering above their instruments lock eyes on Eric Pritchard, first violinist. After a moment of breathless suspense, bows moved across the strings in unison, filling the Gothic Reading Room in Perkins Library with the sharp e minor chord that begins the quartet.

For Berghausen, the free lunchtime concerts are a treasured benefit of working at Duke. She has attended nearly all lunchtime classic concerts in the past three years. Often, her husband, Sasha, rides his motorcycle from his job in downtown Durham to join her on campus.

"We both love music, but we have three children under the age of 12, so we don't go to a lot of concerts right now," Berghausen said. "These concerts are our opportunity to have a fantastic date together in the middle of the day without having to worry about babysitters."