CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Violist Bernard Di Gregorio hails from Boston. So, last year, when he noticed that the Montclaire String Quartet's February 2014 concert was to fall on Super Bowl Sunday, he thought that a concert of music by Boston-based composers might make a nice, humorous fit since that football team from New England seems often to get to the National Football League's championship game.
The Patriots, alas, did not make it.
But the quartet put together a recital called "New England Patriots," featuring music by Amy Beach (1867-1944), Charles Ives (1874-1954) and George Whitefield Chadwick ((1854-1931), which it played Sunday afternoon at the University of Charleston's Emma Byrd Gallery.
For all the mirth of the title, it offered a chance to hear some music that is played infrequently.
For composers from America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a well-rounded musical education meant studying in Europe. By the 1920s, Paris was where American composers went to learn their craft (from Nadia Boulanger), but in Chadwick's day, Germany was the place to go.
The kind of Germanic rigor that Americans of Chadwick's generation learned has left later generations with a low opinion of their work. After all, Boulanger taught Stravinsky's methods and much of 20th-century music is refracted through a Stravinsky prism. And Stravinsky had an antipathy toward Germanic methods.
But Chadwick's String Quartet No. 4 in E Minor shows a solid mix of Germanic rigor and independent thought. Some of it is a bit crazy: The big folk-songlike melody of the last movement is recapped as a double fugue.
Montclaire played it with sympathy. The attractive melodies of the opening movement zipped along with active textures and rhythmic energy. The slow movement ended with a slight return of the main theme in high-range harmonics in Andrea Di Gregorio's cello shored up by pizzicato strings.