Escher String Quartet (photo Sophie Zhal)
(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass.) – The Escher String Quartet will perform works by Mendelssohn, Bartok, and Beethoven at the Mahaiwe on Saturday, April 15, at 6pm, as part of the Close Encounters With Music series. The concert marks the critically acclaimed rising quartet’s Berkshire debut.
The program includes three landmark works of chamber music: Mendelssohn’s gripping Quartet in E minor, opus 80, saturated with poetic melancholy and written in memory of his beloved sister Fannie; the Bartók Quartet No. 3, a fusion of folk and Western art music; and Beethoven’s “Razumovsky” Quartet in E minor, opus 59, No. 2, resplendent in its cosmic grandeur.
Close Encounters artistic director and cellist Yehuda Hanani says, “Both Béla Bartók and Felix Mendelssohn used Beethoven as their model for writing in this form. Beethoven had democratized the string quartet and made it a discourse among equals. Mendelssohn and Bartók took the idea forward, continuing his legacy into the twentieth century.”
The Escher String Quartet has received acclaim for its profound musical insight and rare tonal beauty. A former BBC New Generation Artist, the quartet has performed at the BBC Proms at Cadogan Hall and is a regular guest at Wigmore Hall. In its home town of New York, the ensemble serves as Season Artists of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, where last season it not only presented the complete Zemlinsky Quartets Cycle in a concert streamed live from the Rose Studio, but was also one of five quartets chosen to collaborate in a complete presentation of Beethoven’s string quartets. In the current season, the quartet is invited to tour with CMS to China.
Within months of its inception in 2005, the ensemble came to the attention of key musical figures worldwide. Championed by the Emerson Quartet, the Escher Quartet was invited by both Pinchas Zukerman and Itzhak Perlman to be Quartet in Residence at each artist’s summer festival: the Young Artists Programme at Canada’s National Arts Centre; and the Perlman Chamber Music Programme on Shelter Island, NY. The quartet has since collaborated with artists including David Finckel, Leon Fleischer, Wu Han, Lynn Harrell, Cho Liang Lin, Joshua Bell, Paul Watkins, and David Shifrin, and In 2013, the quartet became one of the very few chamber ensembles to be awarded the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant.
Known for their wide stylistic interests, the Escher Quartet has collaborated with jazz saxophonist Joshua Redman, vocalist Kurt Elling, legendary Latin artist Paquito D’Rivera, and tours regularly with Grammy Award-winning guitarist Jason Vieaux.
Escher String Quartet (photo Sophie Zhal)
The Escher Quartet has made a distinctive impression throughout Europe, with recent debuts including the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Berlin Konzerthaus, London’s Kings Place, Slovenian Philharmonic Hall and Auditorium du Louvre. With a strong collaborative approach, the group has appeared at festivals such as Heidelberg Spring Festival, Dublin’s Great Music in Irish Houses, Risør Chamber Music Festival in Norway, Hong Kong International Chamber Music Festival and Perth International Arts Festival in Australia.
The current season sees a return to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and subsequent tour of Israel, a return to Les Grands Interprètes series in Geneva and three UK tours, including Wigmore Hall.
Alongside its growing European profile, the Escher Quartet continues to flourish in its home country, performing at Alice Tully Hall in New York, Kennedy Center in Washington DC and the Ravinia and Caramoor festivals. In 2014, the quartet gave a highly-praised debut at Chamber Music San Francisco and in 2015 presented a Schubert quartets focus at Music@Menlo in California, where it returns in the current season.
Currently String Quartet in Residence at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, the quartet fervently supports the education of young musicians and has given masterclasses at institutions such as the Royal Academy of Music in London and Campos do Jordão Music Festival in Brazil.
Volumes I and II of the complete Mendelssohn Quartets, released on the BIS label in 2015, were received with the highest critical acclaim, with comments such as “…eloquent, full-blooded playing … The four players offer a beautiful blend of individuality and accord” (BBC Music Magazine). The Mendelssohn series is concluded this season with the release of Volume III. The quartet has also recorded the complete Zemlinsky String Quartets in two volumes, released on the Naxos label in 2013 and 2014 respectively, to accolades including five stars in the Guardian with “Classical CD of the Year”, a Recommendation in The Strad, “Recording of the Month” on MusicWeb International and a nomination for a BBC Music Magazine Award.
The Escher Quartet takes its name from Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher, inspired by Escher’s method of interplay between individual components working together to form a whole.
In the Close Encounters With Music tradition, each performance is followed by an AFTERGLOW reception, with hors d’oeuvres and wine provided by local restaurants.
Tickets, $45 (Orchestra and Mezzanine), $25 (Balcony) and $15 for students, are available at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center box office, 413.528.0100. Visit Close Encounters With Music.
ABOUT CLOSE ENCOUNTERS WITH MUSIC
Close Encounters With Music stands at the intersection of music, art and the vast richness of Western culture. Entertaining, erudite and lively commentary from founder and Artistic Director Yehuda Hanani puts the composers and their times in perspective to enrich and enlighten the concert experience. Since the inception of its Commissioning Project in 2001, CEWM has worked with the most distinguished composers of our time—Lera Auerbach, Robert Beaser, Kenji Bunch, Osvaldo Golijov, John Musto, and Paul Schoenfield among others—to create important new works that have already taken their place in the chamber music canon and on CD. A core of brilliant performers includes pianists James Tocco, Adam Neiman, Walter Ponce, Lydia Artymiw and Jeffrey Swann; violinists Shmuel Ashkenasi, Yehonatan Berick, Vadim Gluzman and Erin Keefe; clarinetists Alexander Fiterstein, Charles Neidich; vocalists Dawn Upshaw, Amy Burton, Jennifer Aylmer, Robert White, Lucille Beer and William Sharp; the Vermeer, Amernet, Muir, Manahattan, Avalon, Hugo Wolf, Dover quartets, and Cuarteto Latinamericano; and guitarist Eliot Fisk. Choreographer David Parsons and actors Richard Chamberlain, Jane Alexander and Sigourney Weaver have also appeared as guests, weaving narration and dance into the fabric of the programs. Close Encounters With Music programs have been presented in cities across the U.S. and Canada—Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Omaha, Cincinnati, Calgary, Detroit, at the Frick Collection and Merkin Hall in New York City, at Tanglewood and in Great Barrington, MA, as well as in Scottsdale, AZ. Summer performances have taken place at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA; and the Catskill High Peaks Festival continued the educational mission of Close Encounters With Music with fifty international students in residence in the Great Northern Catskills at the Carey Center for Global Good in an immersive course of study and performance.