When the piano-playing siblings the Five Browns began packing concert halls for their performances of popular classics, their story—a truly musical family—was just as responsible for their early acclaim as their undeniable talent.

Now, Portland is cultivating its own family ensemble of musical prodigies with a similar combination of talent and narrative allure. For six years, the Dickson String Quartet, comprising the older siblings of Dickson family—including Benjamin (viola, 19), Brandon (violin, 19), Ashley (violin, 18) and Daniel (cello, 15), all home schooled in Battleground, Wash.—has played at everything from the Rose Festival Royal Rosarians queen luncheon to musical programs for cancer patients.

Portland composer Jack Gabel heard the group tackle Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 8 at an Oregon Pro Arte concert last year and marveled at "the sheer audacity of such young musicians tackling so monumental a work." Shostakovich wrote the quartet, one of the 20th century's most powerful chamber works, after witnessing the aftermath of the horrific, unconscionable firebombing of Dresden during World War II, and dedicated it to the victims of fascism.

Gabel told his wife, choreographer Agnieszka Laska, about the group, and after hearing them play the Quartet in recital, she decided to create a new dance—"The Terror That Is Named the Flight of Time"—set to their passionate rendition.

Laska's company will also dance her new choreography to three of Tomas Svoboda's "Etudes in Fugue Style," with pianist Christopher Schindler, along with other pieces (see dance listing, this page).

But the centerpieces will be the Dickson family and Shostakovich's searing masterpiece. Pro Arte director Cindy Petty says despite their youth, the ensemble is up to the challenge: "They are an aural painting and play with an intensity that will draw you into the heart of the music and leave you breathless."


Imago Theater, 17 SE 8th Ave., 715-1866. 7:30 pm Thursday-Saturday, June 19-21. Recorded music only Saturday. $15-$18.