Left Coast performs ‘Quartet for the End of Time’

Since the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble was founded by San Francisco violist-composer Kurt Rohde 23 years ago, it has performed hundreds of contemporary works, often paired with classics. Its concert next week, “Circa 1945,” featuring music written some seven decades ago, includes pieces that fit both categories: still newish, but already standards.

The centerpiece is Olivier Messiaen’s “Quartet for the End of Time.” Messiaen wrote the unique and great work in a German prisoner of war camp in 1941, and performed it there with his fellow prisoners. The composer, a Catholic mystic, referred to a quote inspired by Revelation 10:1, to explain the title: “And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, who stood upon the sea and upon the earth, lifted up his hand to heaven, and swore that there should be time no longer…”

“The quartet sounds like nothing else in the world. It is easy to take for granted, but really, the way Messiaen takes the 88 notes available on the piano – the same ones available to everyone else – and turns them into this particular transcendent piece has me amazed,” says Anna Presler, LCCE’s artistic director and violinist, who will perform the piece with pianist Eric Zivian, cellist Tanya Tomkins and clarinetist Jerome Simas.

Describing the work’s nearly hour-long length and technical difficulty, Presler says: “Much of the time playing it I really do feel that time has been stretched or suspended, and at other times that I’m riding some madly inexorable train, coasting on the lines created by the piano, clarinet and cello.”

Tomkins calls the quartet more than just a great piece of music: “It is a transformative listening experience; with Messaien’s soundscape, where there are birds, trumpets, heartbeats and the sound of eternity, stretching players and listeners alike to almost ecstatic extremes.”

Other works in “Circa 1945” are Bohuslav Martinu’s 1947 Oboe Quartet, with oboist Andrea Plesnarski, who says, “it picks up strains of Eastern European folk music that I love’; and Stravinsky’s 1944 “Élégie” for Unaccompanied Solo Violin, which Presler calls “tenderly dissonant.”

IF YOU GO Left Coast Chamber Ensemble

Where: S.F. Conservatory of Music, 50 Oak St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. Feb. 2

Tickets: $15 to $30

Contact: (415) 617-5223,

Note: The program also is at 8 p.m. Feb. 5 at 142 Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley.

Anna PreslerartsClassical Music & OperaEric ZivianLeft Coast Chamber Ensemble

Just Posted

Badly needed rain cooled off pedestrians on Market Street in The City on Wednesday. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Storm door opens in San Francisco — what will the rains bring?

‘Come Monday, fire season in Northern California should be done’

Newly appointed City Attorney David Chiu will play a key role in an upcoming legal battle between gig economy companies and The City. (Sheila Fitzgerald/Shutterstock)
City Attorney David Chiu faces immediate test in major gig economy lawsuit

DoorDash and Grubhub are suing San Francisco over price controls

FILE — In-N-Out Burger, the popular California fast-food chain, is resisting San Francisco's public health rules that require indoor diners to show proof of vaccination. (J. Emilio Flores/The New York Times)
When it comes to San Francisco vaccine rules, In-N-Out should heed Biblical advice

Burger chain’s vaccine fight distracts from its tasty burgers and French fries controversy

The Walgreens at 4645 Mission St. in The City is among those slated to close. <ins>(Courtesy photo)</ins>
Walgreens says it’s closing five SF stores due to crime. Where’s the data?

Walgreens should be transparent, enlighten city leaders about crime’s effect on business

Lake Hennessey, a reservoir for Napa, looked dry in June. Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday issued a proclamation extending the drought emergency statewide and asked residents to redouble water conservation efforts. <ins>(Mike Kai Chen/New York Times)</ins>
Newsom declares drought emergency across California

State closed out its second-driest water year on record

Most Read