The last time I heard the DaPonte String Quartet, it was playing George Crumb’s “Black Angels” on electronic instruments and wine glasses. Friday night’s concert at Lincoln Theater (to be repeated at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Midcoast Presbyterian Church in Topsham) proved once more that they are equally at home in the classical repertoire.

The concert was to have consisted of works composed in Vienna at different eras of that seminal city. Mozart and Beethoven made the cut but Alban Berg’s String Quartet (Op. 3) was replaced by an early Mendelssohn work, the String Quartet in A Minor, Op. 13, which the DaPonte will be recording soon.

In its flowing operatic melodies, innovation and even academic counterpoint, the youthful quartet stands up well against its illustrious predecessors. In fact, there may have been people in the audience who preferred Mendelssohn to Berg.

The quartet is a strange work, held together by related melodies and reflecting the young composer’s admiration for the last Beethoven quartets, especially in the dramatic finale, with its fugal writing interspersed with concerto-like solos.

But the quartet is not merely imitation Beethoven. The solos presage the Violin Concerto while the buzzing, insect-like writing in the march-like intermezzo calls up images of his music for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

The DaPonte’s technical ability has always been evident. In its more recent concerts, and especially in this one, it has demonstrated a new polish and a surprising sonority. The opening measures of the Mendelssohn sounded like a string orchestra. If this comes across in the new CD, in which the Opus 13 is combined with late Beethoven quartets, it will be well worth adding to one’s collection.

Adding to the interest of the program was a fine performance of the Beethoven String Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 74 (“The Harp”), with its many similarities to the Mendelssohn. The final movement is a set of variations on a melodic theme that might have been written by the younger composer. The viola variation, played by Kirsten Monke, was particularly haunting.

The program began with the Mozart String Quartet in G Major, K. 387 (“Spring”), the first of six dedicated to Franz Josef Haydn. Mozart put a great deal of effort into his tribute to the form perfected by Haydn, and the result, although not academic, is denser and more polyphonic than his later work, making them the most Beethoven-like of his chamber music.

I can’t find the origin of the nickname “Spring” in any of my reference books, but the work is sunny enough to deserve the appellation. The “Harp” for the Beethoven refers to harp-like plucked arpeggios in the first movement.

Christopher Hyde’s Classical Beat column appears in the Maine Sunday Telegram. He can be reached at:

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