Here is a difference between the worlds of classical and popular music: When a pop group releases an album, it plays its new material in concert, in the hope that concertgoers who haven’t already picked up a copy, might do so after hearing it. For classical musicians, the public performances typically take place before the recording – as preparation, in effect, so that when they take the music into the studio, it is fully under their fingers. And then they move on.

The DaPonte String Quartet, now celebrating its 25th season, released its latest CD, “Pathways to Healing” (Centaur), with thoughtfully played, beautifully recorded performances of Beethoven’s Quartet No. 15 (Op. 132) and Mendelssohn’s Quartet No. 2 (Op. 13), just two months ago.

But concerts are concerts and recordings are recordings, in classical circles, so if you missed the quartet’s performances of these pieces a few seasons ago – or at its CD launch party in Jefferson in September – and hoped to hear them at the opening of its series at the Maine Jewish Museum on Thursday evening, you were out of luck. But copies were available at the ticket desk (and on the DaPonte website).

For the concert, the DaPonte players – violinists Lydia Forbes and Ferdinand Liva; violist Kirsten Monke; and cellist Miles Jordan – turned their attention to a recent work by Boston-based composer John Heiss (who was present), and repertory classics by Mozart and Prokofiev. The program’s title, “Running a Ground,” was a bit oblique, referring both to the nautical phrase (and by extension, to the finale of the Heiss, which is partly returning home, by sea – and perhaps to the hornpipe-like finale of the Mozart) and the musical term for a repeating bass figure, heard in a couple of the pieces.

Heiss’ “Microcosms” (2015) is a set of eight vignettes that describe, with remarkable concision, an array of colorful soundscapes. In “Clustered,” the opening piece, clashing major and minor seconds (adjacent notes of the scale, which create dissonant “clusters”), presented in a slow sequence, yielded a melancholy, dark atmosphere, with an almost visual quality: You felt almost as if you were looking at a bleak landscape, rather than hearing a piece of music. But no mood is sustained for long. The second movement, “Diatonic-Canonic,” is bright and folk-like with an ending that could have been wrested from a Renaissance piece.

“Enharmonic” wrests us back toward the dark atmosphere of “Clustered,” but without the harmonic clashes, and with greater delicacy of texture, but its successor, “Octatonic,” is a roller coaster ride, with rising, falling and trilled figures. The chromatic ascent of the first violin line, and the sumptuous vibrato that Forbes applied to it, gave “Lyric” the spirit of a 1940s radio melodrama, while “Stuck” is built around a waltz rhythm, with amusingly sour twists.

The final two movements were the most interesting. In the expansive “Free,” Heiss has the players begin with a loud clap, and a bit of percussive scratching and tapping, before moving onto more conventionally bowed figures – short ones at first, then long, singing lines, punctuated by tapping, trilling and popping, before reaching a final, dark-hued chord. And “Homeward Bound (Fantasy on Pierrot),” while ostensibly describing a boat trip (I can’t say I heard that in it) was also, and more clearly, an homage to Arnold Schoenberg’s “Pierrot Lunaire,” with its spiky rhythms and angular lines.

Forbes read the composer’s brief description of each movement before it was played, in some cases adding elucidations of her own. That was an effective approach, for a first hearing, but given the brevity of the set, I was hoping the quartet would play it again, without interruption, letting us hear the work’s colorful juxtapositions as they unfold on the page. For that, I guess, we will have to wait for a recording.

Mozart’s Quartet No. 23 (K. 590) opened the program with the elegance and vibrancy one expects from the DaPonte in this repertory. And if Prokofiev’s wartime Quartet No. 2 (Op. 92, 1941) had its turbid moments, the players did a fine job of illuminating its folk music borrowings, as well as the vitality and inventiveness of Prokofiev’s variations, in the finale, on the strident march figures that open the piece.

Allan Kozinn is a former music critic and culture writer for The New York Times who lives in Portland. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: kozinn

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