- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 13, 2002

Former U.S. poet laureate Robert Pinsky and the Takacs Quartet are on the road together this month all for the sake of love. The Colorado-based string quartet and the very public-minded poet, a resident of Cambridge, Mass., have combined forces for a program of words and music titled "All the World for Love." The music will be played between readings. The tour, which began in Los Angeles April 6, brings them to the Center for the Arts at George Mason University in Fairfax on Wednesday evening. Their last appearance will be next Saturday in Ithaca, N.Y.

"The project comes partly from a certain impatience with the conventions of the concert and of the poetry reading," says Mr. Pinsky in an e-mail message. "The idea is to relax some old habits and to introduce some of the poetry audience to chamber music, and some of the chamber music to poetry."

The concept isn't completely new, notes British-born Takacs Quartet violinist Edward Dusinberre in a telephone interview. "I think it was much more common 100 years ago at intimate evening soirees when poets and musicians moved in the same circles. Audiences are more specialized today when there are big but quite separate audiences for both the worlds of the poet and the quartet."

The mix also had its day in the 1960s. "It was common then for jazz and poetry to go together. Poet Allan Ginsberg did it," Mr. Dusinberre says.

"We had the idea but didn't know how to get it off the ground," he says. "We knew Mr. Pinsky from his Favorite Poem Project [in which he asked Americans to read their favorite poems] and he seemed a great choice. Without him, [the tour] wouldn't have happened."

The three string quartets that will be played mirror aspects of love even if, in Mr. Dusinberre's words, "the theme we settled on certainly isn't love at its most cheerful." The compositions are by Leos Janacek, Benjamin Britten and Samuel Barber. Mr. Barber's famous "Adagio" is associated with many funereal occasions but was inspired by a passage from the Roman poet Virgil's "The Georgics."

Mr. Pinsky and Takacs Quartet members, who had met through mutual friends, decided Mr. Pinsky would choose the poems after which the quartet would make its selections. Originally, they had in mind separate programs, one focusing on love and the other on death. But then they found an overlap, so the program encompasses both. The first set of poems consists of works by Ben Jonson, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Edward Arlington Robinson and William Carlos Williams. The last poem of the night is Mr. Pinsky's own "The Want Bone."

Poetry and music have many similarities, according to Mr. Dusinberre and Mr. Pinsky.

"The musicians and I have been struck by how many elements the two arts share in matters of pace, emphasis, variation all the ways a temporal art makes a shape in time," Mr. Pinsky says. "I don't maintain that poetry is enhanced by music. But the presentation along with music may help enhance our perception of the nature of poetry."

Calling himself "a poetry lover but not an expert by any means," Mr. Dusinberre speaks of their common bond. "The poet when he is reading has to make a lot of choices that the musician does choices about phrasing and rhythm and emphasis. Of course, they are different forms. We don't try to meld them together. And certainly each person listens to each [form] differently."

WHAT: "All the World for Love: An Evening of Music and Poetry"

WHERE: George Mason University's Center for the Arts, Braddock Road and Route 123, Fairfax

WHEN: 8 p.m. Wednesday

TICKETS: $21 to $42

PHONE: 703/218-6500 or online at www.tickets.com

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