Anne Aurand / For The Bulletin

High Desert Chamber Music, a new Bend-based organization that intends to bring chamber music performances to Central Oregon year-round, will present its inaugural concert Wednesday at the Tower Theatre, featuring the Southern California-based Crown City String Quartet (see “If You Go”).

Isabelle Senger, an accomplished musician and violin instructor, moved to Bend last August from Pasadena, Calif. She founded the chamber music organization earlier this year.

Chamber music — typically performed by a small group of classical musicians — is not new to Central Oregon.

The Central Oregon Symphony Association sponsors a chamber music series and offers free chamber music performances in public places, said Central Oregon Symphony conductor Michael Gesme.

“We have been pleased with the turnout for all of our events, and the musicians who perform are grateful for the opportunity to play chamber music,” Gesme said.

The Crown City String Quartet is based in Los Angeles, where Senger frequently returns to work as a professional violinist.

Senger, Julian Hallmark, Carrie Holzman-Little and Dane Little make up the quartet.

They’ve all lived in the “Crown City” of Pasadena, hence their name.

We spoke with Senger about her new endeavor and asked some questions about the upcoming concert:

Q. How and when did you four meet and start working together?

A. I met and started performing with the other members of the Crown City String Quartet roughly 12 years ago in groups such as the Pasadena Symphony, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra, as well as in the motion picture and TV recording studios.

When it comes to choosing who to play chamber music with, many things are considered. It is very difficult to determine how four different individuals will communicate and relate to each other musically and personally in a chamber group. However, from the first time we played together, it was instantly obvious that we had a strong connection, and that our individual styles, strengths and voices were a harmonious fit.

Q. Why is chamber music special, compared to symphonies, choirs, etc.?

A. With no conductor and only one performer to a part, each musician controls an integral part of the performance. There is nowhere or no one to hide behind. Each part is exposed and heard equivalent to how a soloist would be heard in front of a symphony orchestra. However, unlike a soloist, at the heart of this art form is a spirit of collaboration. Chamber music demands that each individual engage in a close musical dialogue with the other performers.

I find it is also much more personally and musically fulfilling when you can truly express your own voice as a performer, which I have gravitated to as my career has developed. Also, many composers did not attempt composing chamber music until much later in their lives, when they felt they had matured musically and personally.

Q. Describe what you’ll be playing here.

A. Divertimento No. 1 in D Major by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: It is one of three works for strings written in Salzburg early in 1772, when Mozart was only 16. Today it is one of the most popular works in string quartet and string orchestra repertoire.

Six Quartets, Op. 18, No. 1 in F Major by Ludwig von Beethoven: In 1801, Beethoven wrote a collection of six quartets grouped together as Op. 18. This first string quartet remains within the classical tradition while still finding subtle ways to reinvent. One of the testimonies to the genius of Beethoven is that in each musical discipline he explored (symphony, concerto, sonata, string quartet), he created masterpieces that still astonish with their innovation, great depth, and their technical demands, and these early compositions are known for having laid the groundwork for his inventive late string quartets.

Quartet No. 12 in F Major for Strings, “American,” by Antonin Dvorak: After Haydn and Beethoven, Dvorak must be considered the most important composer of string quartets in the Romantic era. Dvorak and his family were on vacation in the Czech community of Spillville, Iowa, when he composed this instantly popular piece, considered to be one of his most famous chamber works.

Q. What’s next?

A. I’m in the process of reserving dates at the Tower Theatre for the opening series starting in the fall. I’m planning three concerts for this opening 2008-2009 season, maybe four. The groups I have scheduled to perform are the Highland Trio, the Blue Rose Trio and a return of the Crown City String Quartet.

If you go

What: High Desert Chamber Music’s inaugural performance, featuring the Crown City String Quartet

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday

Where: The Tower Theatre, 835 N.W. Wall St., Bend

Cost: $25 for adults, $10 for children and students with ID. Tickets available through, by calling 317-0700 or at the Tower Theatre box office Monday through Friday 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Contact:, 317-0700