About The String Quartet Marathon Performers

Friday, November 16, 2012

Each of the string ensembles that are performing on the Beethoven String Quartet Marathon shared some of their thoughts on the pieces they are playing and about what Beethoven means to them. Below you will find the listing of each group and selections from their email interviews with us.

Afiara String Quartet

Yuri Cho and Valerie Li, violins; David Samuel, viola; and Adrian Fung, cello

David Samuels

What is special to you about each piece?

Op. 18, No. 1 is so special because in many ways it alludes to some of the darkness, emotional depth, and genius innovation that would overtake the late quartets. 

Op. 131 is one of the greatest pieces of music ever written, in any genre. It is remarkably complex in every way and yet it somehow manages to retain a pure simplicity. It is a 35-minute journey, without break, but every moment is so full of meaning that the piece becomes timeless.

    What does Beethoven's music mean to you today?

    As a string quartet musician, Beethoven is the most important composer for me. His music is at the same time both human and divine. Unlike almost any other composer, Beethoven explores the darkest corners of human existence and somehow manages to lead us to a better place.

     

    Alumni of the Perlman Music Program

    Kristin Lee and Miki-Sophia Cloud, violins; Caitlin Lynch, viola; and Jia Kim, cello

    Miki-Sophia Cloud

    What does Beethoven's music mean to you today?

    When it comes to Beethoven, there is something about his music that shakes souls across time and space. To me, that soul-shaking element is that nothing in this music comes easily. In practically every phrase, there is a struggle -- a struggle to sing, a struggle to speak, a struggle to find resolution or peace. The deeply satisfying thing about Beethoven's music is that at the end of the day, he always overcomes that struggle. Sometimes he overcomes with roaring flames and raised fists, and sometimes he does it with a whisper and a sigh -- but he always overcomes. What could be more fundamentally human than that?

     

    American String Quartet

    Peter Winograd and Laurie Carney, violins; Daniel Avshalomov, viola; and Wolfram Koessel, cello

    Daniel Avshalomov

    When did you first encounter Beethoven?

    I remember when I was about four years old hearing my father and older brother playing piano-four-hands versions of some of the Beethoven symphonies, and I recall the slow movement of the Seventh specifically -- it remains a favorite to this day.

    What does Beethoven's music mean to you today?

    Discovery, growth, fulfillment, challenge -- his quartets, the late ones in particular, are the best answer to the question "What is a masterpiece?"

     

    Amphion String Quartet

    Katie Hyun and David Southorn, violins; Wei-Yang Andy Lin, viola; and Mihai Marica, cello

    David Southorn

    Why did you pick the quartet you're performing? What is special to you about this piece?

    We always enjoy the brilliant, almost hyper start of Op. 18 No. 6, followed by humorous dialogue and the unfolding of playful musical episodes.  We feel the piece never fails to amuse the listener with its cheer, its wit, and mischief. 

    The Opus 95 happens to be the second Beethoven piece that we have ever played. Although it is his shortest string quartet, he makes up for the lack of length with an incredible amount of expressive power. What attracts us to this piece in particular is the amazing contrast in characters. Beethoven shocks us with intense and explosive gestures while also supplying some of the most beautiful and lyrical lines he ever wrote. 

     

    Attacca Quartet

    Amy Schroeder and Keiko Tokunaga, violins; Luke Fleming, viola; and Andrew Yee, cello

    Why did you pick the quartet you're performing?

    We played this piece for the Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition in July of 2011, at which we placed third. We performed it a few times before the competition as preparation, and played it once immediately afterwards at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, but after that we had so much other repertoire we need to quickly learn that the piece unfortunately got pushed aside. We were very happy, over a year later, to have the opportunity to bring the piece back and enjoy working on it and performing it again.

    What is special to you about this piece?

    As many people know, Haydn is very important to the Attacca Quartet, and our "The 68" complete Haydn string quartets series is certainly indicative of that. Surprisingly few classical music aficionados know that Haydn was Beethoven's teacher, which makes playing Beethoven--especially early Beethoven--very interesting and pleasing for a Haydn lover. Op. 18 no. 2 is decidedly the most "Haydnesque" of Beethoven's quartets, particularly in its heavy reliance on motivic development over pure beauty of melody. While this causes some to criticize it for it being one of Beethoven's most conservative, reactionary works of chamber music, if viewed through the lens of Beethoven's love and respect for Haydn, it is a delightful and compelling piece.

     

    Cecilia String Quartet

    Min-Jeong Koh and Sarah Nematallah, violins; Caitlin Boyle, viola; and Rachel Desoer, cello

    Rachel Desoer

    Why did you pick the quartet you're performing?

    We chose to play Op. 59 No. 2 last season because it was the middle quartet we were most familiar with collectively. We also felt it was performed less often.

    What is special to you about this piece?

    We love its unique spirit, fleeting and yet timeless.

    What does Beethoven's music mean to you today?

    Now that string quartet is my life's devotion, I consider Beethoven's quartets the 'scripture' of our art form. I love his other music as well but I will never know it as intimately as I will the quartets. Everything about how a quartet works, everything it can possibly express, all the skills we need to learn are contained in these works. We just choose a perspective from which to dive in each day.

     

    Jasper String Quartet

    J. Freivogel and Sae Chonabayashi, violins; Sam Quintal, viola; and Rachel Henderson Freivogel, cello

    Sam Quintal

    When did you first encounter Beethoven?

    I'm sure each of us has our own very personal story about our first encounter with Beethoven. The first piece that I fell in love with was the Violin Concerto (yes, in a former life I was a violinist). I was about 14 when I first heard it. I begged my teacher incessantly to let me play it for years. Fortunately, like any responsible teacher of a high school student, she didn't let me anywhere near it. I did finally get to play the concerto as a college student, perhaps not coincidentally as one if the last pieces I performed on the violin before I switched full time to viola.

     As for our quartet, one of the most important formative experiences early in our development was hearing the Takács Quartet play the Beethoven cycle live at the Aspen Music Festival in 2004. This was around the time they were making recordings of the quartet cycle and their performances were awe-inspiring.

     

    Orion String Quartet

    Daniel Phillips and Todd Phillips, violins; Steven Tenenbom, viola; and Timothy Eddy, cello

    What does Beethoven's music mean to you today?

    Beethoven greatly admired Handel because Handel could make huge effects with very simple means. Just think of the easy-to-remember themes from the Hallelujah Chorus from Messiah, and how stirring it is every time it has been heard in the last couple centuries. Beethoven manipulates his minimal material into grand structures that push way beyond the comfort zone of the player and the listener. Crescendos last too long, pianissimos are too soft for too long, motifs are too painful, expectations are raised and either spectacularly fulfilled or dramatically thwarted. In performance, I often groan to myself as I turn the pages of my quartet part as I see the impossible challenges that await. One of my greatest mentor’s Sandor Vegh often said that studying, playing and experiencing Beethoven strengthens you. It does so physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

     

    Parker Quartet

    Daniel Chong and Karen Kim, violins; Jessica Bodne, viola; and Kee-Hyun Kim, cello

      What does Beethoven's music mean to you today?  

      The Beethoven quartets are representative of the heart and soul of the string quartet repertoire. Exploring any one of his 16 quartets inspires you, challenges you, and humbles you in a way that leaves you with a fulfillment that reminds you why the string quartet medium is so incredible. 

       

      Ying Quartet

      Ayano Ninomiya and Janet Ying, violins; Phillip Ying, viola; and David Ying, cello

      Phillip Ying

      Why did you pick the quartet you're performing?  Even if you didn’t pick it, what is special to you about this piece?

      Every single Beethoven quartet is great in its own way and has distinctive elements which give it a unique identity. For that reason, it is wonderfully rewarding to play any of the quartets. The quartets that we're performing on this occasion are the ones that are most recently in our repertoire, and there is not a single performing season of ours that does not include a Beethoven quartet. That said, Op. 18, No. 4, is a terrific, athletic, and exciting work, and Op. 132 centers around the Heiliger Dankgesang which is surely one of the most beautiful and personally meaningful pieces of music ever written. 

      What does Beethoven's music mean to you today?

      Beethoven's quartets explore, reveal, and embrace the full extent of our shared humanity. For that reason, they are consuming to play -- demanding the utmost physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual commitment. For that reason, too, they are more deeply satisfying than almost any other artistic experience that I know. 

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        Comments [2]

        Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJf

        Beethoven's symphonies, opera, concertos, sonatas, string quartets, overtures, chamber music generally ,and song literature, is so pervasive and his world consciousness and basic humanity construct an icon unparalleled to and past his own era. At Juilliard, I studied his oeuvre and , in those days, all singers learned the concert rep of Beethoven , Schubert , Schumann, Wolf and Grieg, whether they would be opera singers or concert singers . So much of our treasured masterpieces, vocal and instrumental, are unknown quantities to most Americans. THANK YOU WQXR FOR CELEBRATING BEETHOVEN !!! Beethoven's symphonies are the ABCs of most essential single composers' oeuvre of the symphonic literature. Who ever having heard the Waldstein well performed can ever forget its beauty and nuanced scope of emotions. Wagner and his contemporaries and their successors all recognized the epic achievement of Beethoven. I am a romantischer Wagnerian heldentenor and director of the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute at 418A Main Street, Boonton, NJ . I have sung four solo concerts in the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall. As part of my Ten Language Solo Debut concert at the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall, I sang the Gott ! welch dunkel hier ! aria of Fidelio. it can be heard from the live performance on my three websites, one of which is www.WagnerOpera.com It received rave critical notices in newspapers and magazines. Rudolf Serkin and his son, Peter are among those other great interpreters of Beethoven's piano concertos and sonatas, Artur Rubinstein, Vladimir Horowitz, Walter Gieseking, ignace Paderevski, Emil Gilels and Simon Barere, remarkable for their virtuosity, and immense ability to interpret from their own perspective. The Beethoven violin concerto is celebrated by its ardent interpreters Heifetz, Menuhin, Kreisler and Perlman.

        Nov. 23 2012 09:41 PM
        Leslie from Belfast, Maine

        Thank you. Looking forward theThe Missa Solemnis tonight.

        Nov. 18 2012 12:34 PM

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        No composer impacted the course of Western music like Ludwig van Beethoven. The events of his life are the stuff of Romantic legend, his works permeate concert halls and he remains a cultural icon outside of classical music, turning up in movies, TV soundtracks, commercials and pop songs. Throughout November, WQXR celebrates Beethoven's work through concert broadcasts, multimedia projects, marathons and other features.

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