From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8, 2020 audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society board encouraged the audience to spread out and suspended their practice of offering refreshments at intermission.

Dvořák first wrote Cypresses as a song cycle set to Czech poems by Moravian poet Gustav Pfleger-Moravsky. It was 1865 and Dvořák was in his twenties. More than 20 years later he transcribed 12 of the songs for string quartet. Of these the Aizuri players played three, unidentified in the program, all lush and evocative. Performing with deep feeling and exquisite calibration, the Quartet gave a rewarding reading, full of thoughtful rubato, pulse and coloration. The music suggested wind in cypress trees, the movement of clouds and the heartbreak of unrequited love. Ayana Kozasa’s viola sang with golden resonance, the violinists Miho Saegusa and Emma Frucht played soaring and sweet phrases and cellist Karen Ouzounian’s deft bow conveyed the ache of longing.

The Aizuri Quartet, based in New York City, was founded seven years ago, and for their Bay Area performances they chose the theme of “Songs and Echoes of Home,” each work referencing folk song and story from a different culture: Czech, Estonian, Armenian, American and Finnish.

Ms. Ouzounian introduced her husband Lembit Beecher’s four-movement work “These Memories May Be True.” Mr. Beecher (b. 1980) based his composition on his Estonian grandmother’s stories “of migration, hardship and overcoming.” The Aizuri performed it with a depth of feeling and virtuosity. Its fragmented themes suggest the fragmentation of his late grandmother’s life after she was forced to flee her country, and a 19th-century Estonian folk song weaves mysteriously throughout, perhaps a link to her past. The four movements are Old Folk Song, The Legend of the Last Ship (and Other Collective Memories), Estonian Grandmother Superhero, and Variations on a Somewhat Old Folk Song. Each was at turns wistful and haunted, with spurts of dissonant harmonies, flurries of vitality, and quiet moments of suspended breaths. The audience responded enthusiastically to the nuanced performance.

Ms. Kozasa next introduced a set of Armenian folk songs arranged by Komitas (1869-1935), calling them “a window into the Armenian soul.” Née Soghomon Soghomonian, Komitas led a productive but ultimately tragic life, collecting and transcribing more than 3,000 Armenian folk songs as well as collecting Kurdish folk songs. The Quartet performed five charming folk songs. “It’s Cloudy” flowed gently, while “Festive Song” evoked lively ritual and festivities. “Dance for Shushiki,” in three-quarter time, pranced and twirled. It was followed by a muscular dance and a children’s song (“Song of the Partridge”) with string pizzicato, delicate harmonics and strong unison playing.

After intermission, the Quartet performed “At the Purchaser’s Option” by Rhiannon Giddens (b. 1977), arranged for string quartet by Jacob Garchik for the Kronos Quartet. Ms. Saegusa said by way of introduction that this was a dark side of American history - slavery. “Through music we get a glimpse into pain and sorrow but also determination and resolve,” she added.

The South Carolina composer’s song was inspired by a 19th-century advertisement for the sale of a young woman and her baby. The words to the song, printed in the program, reveal the young slave’s strength (“You can take my body/You can take my bones/You can take my blood/But not my soul”). It’s a poignant melody and the arrangement was a pleasure to hear, but ultimately the song is thin fare for a string quartet. The simple, repetitive clarity that make it compelling when the words are sung with banjo and bass accompaniment create little opportunity for compositional development with four string players.

The afternoon’s greatest work came last: Sibelius’s titanic five-movement String Quartet in D minor, Op. 56, composed in 1909 between his third and fourth symphonies. The quartet evokes the wild landscape of Finland and the deep interior reflection such a landscape inspires.

The first movement, Andante – Allegro molto Moderato, begins introspectively with a mournful four-measure dialogue between violin and cello. As the other instruments join in, the music becomes harmonies in motion, like waving fields of grain or windswept tundras, and this grace continues throughout the work. The Adagio di molto second movement was played fast and bright with much use of tremolo, and had a scurrying quality and frequent references back to the main theme. The third movement (Allegretto) is the heart of the piece and the Aizuri gave a reading of deep yearning. Sibelius penned “voces intimae” on the score above three muted repeating chords in this movement. There were interior shifts to lightness, foreboding, a catharsis and a final burst of intense musical feeling before coming to resolution. The fourth movement, Allegro (ma pesante), began ominously with an intense, almost existential questioning in phrases that persisted to its conclusion. The finale Allegro movement was performed with restless momentum and shadowed in perpetual motion, building to a cadence that rushed to an exciting close.

Clearly elated with the performance, the audience honored the musicians with a standing ovation. There was no encore, and afterwards the musicians lingered in the lobby to greet friends and wellwishers, and many stopped to personally thank them.