Del Sol Quartet displays virtuosity and versatility 

The City is home to two of the world’s most unusual string quartets. The granddaddy of them all is the Kronos Quartet, for 37 years a leader in presenting new, pioneering music that crosses boundaries of genre, from classical to jazz, to rock and beyond.

Similarly adventurous, but younger and not yet so globally acclaimed, is the Del Sol Quartet. It was founded in 1992 by violist Charlton Lee, who was joined by violinists Kate Stenberg and Rick Shinozaki, and cellist Hannah Addario-Berry.

From a San Francisco State University residency, the “foursome steeped in imagination and bravery” went on to win two national Chamber Music America first-place awards for adventurous programming.

That acclaimed programming includes rarely performed 20th-century American works, as well as numerous commissions of Korean, Cambodian, Chinese and Latin American music.

As for the Kronos connection, Del Sol often performs pieces that Kronos premiered.

“Of course we owe a huge debt of gratitude to that trailblazing quartet,” Lee says. “We are commissioning former Kronos cellist Joan Jeanrenaud’s first string quartet this year as well.”

Besides extensive touring, Del Sol conducts educational outreach activities such as concerts and programs in schools, residencies, coaching and master classes.

Del Sol’s eclecticism is reflected in its concert program today in the Music at Meyer series at Temple Emanu-El, through works by Béla Bartók, Gabriela Lena Frank and Zhou Long, featuring Hungarian, Latin American and Chinese influences.

Also, there is Lou Harrison’s “Quartet Set,” a veritable United Nations of music, with sounds of medieval Europe and Asia, from a peasant dance in France to Turkish court music. 

“The main theme is going to folk roots,” Lee says.

Bartók was among the first to document the music of Hungary and the Balkans, while Gabriela spent a great deal of time in the Andes doing musicological research for his work, “Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout,” which includes recording indigenous performers.

Zhou’s “Song of the Ch’in” is based on a 1,500-year-old Tang dynasty poem, with imitatation of the ancient Chinese instrument guqin.

“With the addition of the multinational, multiethnic Harrison piece, we have four works displaying a wonderful variety of ways that composers are taking traditional cultural elements and incorporating them into a modern piece of music,” Lee says. “In a sense, the composers have breathed new life into these traditions in a compelling contemporary context.”

If you go

Del Sol Quartet

Presented by Music at Meyer

Where: Congregation Emanu-El, 2 Lake St., S.F.

When: 7:30 p.m. today

Tickets: $22 to $25

Contact: (800) 838-3006, www.emanuelsf.org

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