URBANA — Pacifica Quartet violinist Simin Ganatra says the ensemble should play Keeril Makan's quartet, "Return," when it comes back to perform Thursday at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts with pianist Menahem Pressler.
After all, Makan, like the Pacifica, are former University of Illinois School of Music faculty members. And Makan wrote some of the quartet for Pacifica while he was spending time in Champaign, after he took a job at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
"There are a lot of different layers as to why Champaign figures in that piece," Ganatra said Monday. "It should have been in the program. Hopefully, another visit we'll play that piece."
What is on the program at the 7:30 p.m. concert Thursday in Foellinger Great Hall? Luigi Boccherini's String Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 58, No. 2; Sergei Prokofiev's String Quartet No. 2 in F Major, Op. 92; and J.S. Brahms' Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34, with Pressler, who for 55 years was the only pianist for the venerable Beaux Arts Trio.
Now 89, Pressler went on to a distinguished career after winning first prize in 1946 at the Debussy International Piano Competition.
"It's one of his pieces; he owns that piece," Ganatra said of Pressler and the Brahms. "Any time we get to play that with him, it's a special time for us."
She said the Boccherini is not played often; this will mark the first time the Pacifica will perform it in Urbana, where members were on the UI faculty for nine years before taking a similar quartet in-residence position at the larger Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University.
"We miss Champaign," Ganatra said. "My sister and my mom still live there. It's great to come back and see everybody. We've come back a few times. We have a lot of friends there."
Among them are opera star Nathan Gunn, baritone, and his wife, Julie Gunn, a pianist. In coming months, Pacifica members will return to C-U more often to rehearse with the Gunns, both UI faculty members, for their Feb. 19 concert in Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York.
"We're doing a new piece for the occasion written for us by Jennifer Higdon," Ganatra said. "We have a close connection with her — so do the Gunns. Julie's such an amazing arranger; she's arranging a bunch of stuff for quartet, piano and voice."
At Indiana, as it did here, the Pacifica maintains a busy performance schedule, with tours coming up in Europe and Australia.
The Grammy Award-winning quartet continues to record as well. It will record all 17 of Beethoven's quartets on the Chicago-based Cedille Records label.
The quartet also is recording a four-CD survey of Dmitri Shostakovich's complete string quartets, also on Cedille. A third CD, due in March, pairs the composer's late quartets with one by Mieczyslaw Weinberg.
Also, Cedille has invited the Pacifica and Anthony McGill to record the Mozart and Brahms clarinet quintets.
Tickets for the Pacifica and Pressler concert at Krannert are $28 for adults, $23 for senior citizens, $15 for students and $10 for UI students and youths high school age and younger. Choral balcony seats are $15 for adults and $10 for UI students and youths. Call 333-6280 for information.