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San Francisco’s Amaranth Quartet offers world premieres in its D.C. debut

Four women formed the Amaranth Quartet at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in 2014, and the group made its Washington debut Wednesday night, closing out the season of free concerts at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. The results were mixed, with two intriguing world premieres bookended by less assured performances of older music.

Sahba Aminikia, an Iranian-born composer, is also based in San Francisco. His one-movement quartet “Rhyme by Rhyme” sets a poem of that name by Tahirih, the pen name of Fatimih Baraghani, a leader of the nascent Babi religion who was executed in Iran in the 19th century. Most of the piece is a sort of chaconne, in eight-measure segments over an octave ostinato that begins in the cello. Percussive strikes on the bodies of the instruments and pizzicato motifs recalled traditional Persian music. The four musicians read the phrases of the poem, translated into English, in rhythmic repetitions that achieved a hypnotic effect.

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