Escher String Quartet Plays for Zabar’s Shoppers

Smoked Salmon with a Side of Beethoven

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Shoppers at Zabar’s got an unexpected treat with their smoked fish, cheeses and baked goods Wednesday morning. The Escher String Quartet planted itself in front of the fish counter of the Upper West Side food emporium and began playing the first movement of Beethoven’s “Serioso” Quartet.

The performance coincided with Trout Week, the WQXR chamber music festival.

As customers lined up for lox and waited on whitefish, the string quartet emerged from Broadway, instruments in hand, and launched into the turbulent strains of Beethoven's piece. Shoppers reacted with a mix of astonishment and seen-it-all nonchalance.

The Escher, which takes its name from artist M.C. Escher, normally plays in more traditional venues including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, 92nd Street Y and Symphony Space in New York. The group will be touring China in May.

“This is definitely the most unusual performance we've ever done,” said cellist Dane Johansen. The group's other members -- violinists Adam Barnett-Hart and Wu Jie and violist Pierre Lapointe -- were seen buying a raisin bread after the performance.

Video: Amy Pearl and Jen Hsu; Text: Brian Wise


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Comments [17]

SOOZ from Harlem, NY

Wish I were there. Just fab!

Apr. 10 2011 05:35 PM
Michael Meltzer

To Zabar shoppers, a Beethoven Quartet is a mere Bageltelle.

Apr. 08 2011 09:24 AM
Barry Kornblau from Bayside, NY

A classic (pun intended) precedent for this is Joshua Bell's performance of the Bach Chaconne from the D Minor Partita for Solo Violin. The video and amazing analysis is at Enjoy!

Apr. 07 2011 09:40 PM
LES from Washington, DC

Zabar's should consider becoming a sponsor of the station. Two great NYC institutions with overlapping customers..

Apr. 07 2011 10:31 AM
Charlie from Florida

"Stunned"? "shocked"? I thought New Yorkers were supposed to be so sophisticated. No doubt a great inconvenience to the salespeople, the sales volume and to the shoppers. Was this suppose to entice the Nova-Buyers to patronize Chamber Music Concerts? Bizarre idea. Did the instrumentalists get to eat anything for all their strumming?

Apr. 07 2011 07:38 AM
Michelle from Los Angeles, California

I once spotted Itzhak Perlman at Zabar. Hope when I drop in next time, there will be classical music, live or streamed, playing at Zabar. Yes, I too miss WQXR and all the live performances in NYC.

Apr. 06 2011 11:29 PM
dmoriarty from computer

Next week. . .sushi bar on the stage of Carnegie Hall. naahhh. . all things in their rightful place. . this doesn't work because sushi on the stage of Carnegie wouldn't work. The customers have a right to be a little freaked. . .

Apr. 06 2011 09:01 PM
Margaret Greenspan

A Beethoven quartet live -and it was all memorized! A string quartet playing like this in public deserves adoration and awe, yet the customers seemed to have hardly noticed! It makes me angry to see this-no wonder orchestras are going out of business, when we Americans prefer garbage to true beauty in musical performance. We must save human creativity! Or we could become extinct....

Apr. 06 2011 07:21 PM
Bob from Marana, AZ

Beautiful encapsulation of all the reasons why I miss Manhattan so badly.

Apr. 06 2011 06:53 PM
Andrea Elkrief from Hastings on Hudson, NY

What a delight to see the Escher Quartet. I'm sorry that I wasn't there in person. But am excited to see them play on Monday, May 23rd in Dobbs Ferry without the fish. Thank you to WQXR for doing things out of the box.

Apr. 06 2011 06:14 PM
Daniel yoo

Truly Thank you so much for
wonderful music!!
I realized that music is being
Everywhere, thank you!!

Apr. 06 2011 06:00 PM
penny prince from NYC
It's surprising how the New Yorkers in this clip are so jaded. Try this link to see how delighted people can be by live performance art.

Apr. 06 2011 05:29 PM
Deborah from Teaneck, NJ

The customers seem to think that this is just another service that Zabar's is offering its shoppers. They'll probably be disappointed when they're not there next week!

Apr. 06 2011 05:21 PM

what a full of themselves set of customers; we'd be in ecstasy if this were to happen here.

Apr. 06 2011 05:12 PM
Alan from Upper West Slide

Michael Meltzer, please note:

Apr. 06 2011 04:27 PM
Tiffany from Lawn Gisland

I love this. It seems (in my opinion) that in becoming a public radio station, WQXR has so much more.....creative license to do fun, push-the-envelope kinds of things.

Apr. 06 2011 03:55 PM
Michael Meltzer

That's inspirational! It's time for PDQ Bach to do a Lox Quintet.

Apr. 06 2011 03:52 PM

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