Celebrating 10 years, Axiom Quartet navigates the “complexity of simplicity”

SUNDAY AT Houston’s Holocaust Museum, Axiom Quartet presents “The Complexity of Simplicity.” The program consists of emotional and virtuoso string quartets of Polish origin from the end of the 19th/early 20th century composers Mieczysław Weinberg and Karol Szymanowski and living composer Mark Nowakowski.


Sponsored by the Consulate General of Poland, the carefully curated concert celebrates the country’s folk traditions, as well as the music of late Romantics, Shostakovich (who was a friend of Weinberg) and French Impressionists. “It’s exceptional music,” says Axiom Quartet cellist Patrick Moore of the program. “He should be as well known as Beethoven. People just need to hear it, so they can get to know it.

Now in its 10th season, the Axiom Quartet consists of founding members Moore and violinist Dominika Dancewicz with new members Maxine Kuo and Katie Carrington on fiddle and viola respectively. They form a beautiful gregarious band and behave with a bit of pretension as is possible for four highly skilled classical musicians who navigate easily through the traditional string quartet repertoire (Ravel, Beethoven), at the outer limits of the avant-garde. guard, and, on their popular “Jukebox Concert Series” at The Gypsy Poet, music from non-classical artists such as David Bowie, Toto and Metallica.

The title of this Sunday’s show alludes to the startling depth and complexity that can come from humble materials. Before tackling Szymanowski’s “String Quartet No. 2,” one of his most avant-garde compositions, Dancewicz from Poland showed the rest of the group YouTube recordings of original folk songs that inspired Szymanowski. While the original source material may be “simple” (Moore prefers to describe the tracks as “efficient”), it is deceptively simple and offers a dizzying array of sonic possibilities and multiple layers of emotional content. The last movement of Weinberg’s “String Quartet No. 5”, a moody serenade, evokes the popular dance music of its day, while Nowakowski’s “String Quartet No. 1 (Songs of Forgiveness)” includes echoes of Polish laments.

“We strive to make sure voices are heard,” Moore says when asked about Axiom’s dedication to programming contemporary and relatively unknown music, and how often the music of Mozart and Beethoven is scheduled in string quartet concerts. “Szymanowski’s and Weinberg’s music is also excellent. I feel like we as a society would lose a lot if we didn’t hear those particular compositional styles.

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Sharon D. Cole