Omer Quartet is named YSM’s new fellowship quartet-in-residence

Omer Quartet

Omer Quartet

The Omer Quartet has been named the new fellowship quartet-in-residence at the Yale School of Music. During its two-year appointment, which begins in the fall, the quartet will be mentored by the School’s ensemble-in-residence, the Brentano String Quartet, and will coach undergraduate chamber music ensembles at Yale College’s Department of Music. The Omer Quartet, which succeeds the Rolston String Quartet as YSM’s fellowship quartet, includes violinists Mason Yu and Erica Tursi, violist Jinsung Hong, and cellist Alex Cox.

The quartet won the Grand Prize and the Gold Medal at the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition in 2013 and was a first-prize winner at the 2017 Young Concert Artists International Auditions, among other distinctions. The quartet was formed at the Cleveland Institute of Music and later served a graduate residency at the New England Conservatory. The group has collaborated with such respected artists as Sérgio and Odair Assad, Eugene Drucker, Clive Greensmith, Kim Kashkashian, Cho-Liang Lin, Ricardo Morales, and the Borromeo String Quartet, and has collaborated with composers Perry Goldstein and Sean Shepherd.

The Omer Quartet comes to Yale having served as chamber-ensemble-in-residence at the Bravo! Vail Music Festival and as the doctoral fellowship quartet-in-residence at the University of Maryland. While at Yale, the quartet will be introduced to audiences in New Haven and beyond. In October, the group will perform concerts in Sudler Hall and at Carnegie Hall as part of YSM’s Yale in New York Series. In December, the quartet will perform a recital program in Morse Recital Hall.

Committed to community engagement, the quartet inaugurated a Music for Food concert series in the Washington D.C. area with the mission to support local hunger relief with a Tarisio Trust Young Artists Grant. The concerts involved local and out of town guest musicians and raised almost $5,000, creating over 10,000 meals to date.

Learn more about the ensemble at omerquartet.com.

Published July 25, 2019
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Brentano String Quartet to perform program of “Lamentations”

Brentano String Quartet

The Brentano String Quartet, left to right: violinist Serena Canin, cellist Nina Lee, violinist Mark Steinberg, and violist Misha Amory. Photo by Ian Christmann

Commenting on a concert program called “Lamentations,” Brentano String Quartet violinist Mark Steinberg explained, “There exists an old tradition of professional lamenters, who, as a service to those who grieve, digest and transfigure that grief in giving it voice,” asking, “What greater faith in art can be imagined?” The program, Steinberg said, “celebrates that art of cathartic expression in songs of lamentation from Purcell through Bartók and Carter, evincing strength and vulnerability in equal measure, through the intimacy and immediacy of the string quartet.”

The Brentano String Quartet, YSM’s outstanding ensemble-in-residence, will perform its “Lamentations” program at Yale on Tuesday, Jan. 29. We spoke recently with the group’s violist, Misha Amory, about the program.

Q: What are the origins of this program? How did you and your colleagues conceive “Lamentations” and choose the repertoire?

A: This project is a brainchild of Mark’s and has two origins behind it. One is the idea that music of mourning or lamentation is everywhere in our canon, composed and expressed in all periods and in all styles, and Mark felt it would be interesting to gather up examples of this into a single program so that we can appreciate how a diverse body of music can spring from a single, universal urge. The other idea propelling the project is perhaps more of a practical one, which is that each of these little pieces, taken on its own, is awkward to fit into a conventional string quartet program, which typically consists of three or four substantial works in several movements. In that type of program, smaller works might end up marginalized or lost in the bigger picture. This program enables us to perform these beloved pieces in a setting where their power is not dimmed, but rather thrown into relief.

Q: What other works of art, if any—literature, visual art, etc.—have you considered as you’ve developed this program?

A: We have not referred to works of art or literature that are not directly connected to the pieces on the program. That said, almost every piece on the program has some point of reference beyond “pure music.” The Haydn [“Eli, Eli” from the Seven Last Words of Christ] of course is music depicting the spirit of Christ’s final utterances, meant to provide time for meditation during the Good Friday service; Lekeu’s Molto Adagio is similarly religiously themed. [Purcell’s] Dido’s Lament connects us to Virgil’s Aeneid, an epic poem of antiquity, and more nearly to the world of Baroque opera, intertwining the sensibilities of two artistic periods pre-dating the string quartet. Shostakovich’s Elegy is his own transcription for string quartet of the extraordinary aria from his opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk: like the Purcell, it displays the grief of a solitary and unloved one, and like the Purcell it is from an opera based on a great literary work of the past. The Gesualdo madrigals have their own poetic texts (of course not heard in a quartet performance), and madrigal form is the most literary of music, with every note and turn of phrase intimately connected to and entwined with its text. All in all, this program has deep ties to many primary strands in Western culture.

Q: Mark has asked, rhetorically, “What greater faith in art can be imagined?” What has music meant for you during times of grief and what is it about music that it can reach us so deeply?

A: This question needs a whole book to answer! I believe, personally, that the power of music in this sense is somehow connected to its non-verbal nature. Nobody can escape the experience of grief, and yet it will come to each person differently. Likewise, virtually no one is unaffected by music, but each listener will hear his own version. Music does not explicitly state its meaning in performance, leaving the listener to construe it according to her own lights. Sometimes music can be consoling, sometimes unbearable to one who is grieving; either way, it unquestionably penetrates deep into the psyche.

Q: What have conversations between you and your colleagues been like as you’ve rehearsed this repertoire? In what ways have you explored the composers’ motivations and intentions?

A: Mark once told me a story about being coached by Fritz Maag, a great cellist and musical thinker who was on the faculty at Indiana University. Mark was in a student group that was playing the grief-stricken opening of the finale of Beethoven’s Op. 95, a devastating passage of just a few bars. Mr. Maag memorably said, “As human beings, I hope you never have to experience the suffering contained in this music … but as artists, you have to be able to imagine it.” This is about as good a set of marching orders as there is for a musician aspiring to meaningful expression. We are always method actors of a sort, trying not just to understand the composer’s intention, but to crawl into his mind, to become him, or the person he is depicting. Of course it is part of every performer’s job to be well-grounded in the biographical and stylistic details of the composer he is performing, and I believe that this knowledge casts a kind of penumbra that deepens the performance and gives it resonance.  However, the chief part of our labor consists in engaging with the piece itself, at a molecular level: pondering the expressive aspects of a subphrase, meditating on the contours and textures of a single work by a single person, identifying what makes it unique by dwelling within it as a primary source. In fact, to spend too much time examining external considerations (for example, events in the composer’s life in the year of the composition) can have an oddly distracting, or diluting, effect on our work. We do best when we scrutinize the composer’s motivations and intentions as seen in the music that is on the page, before our eyes.

Q: Does this repertoire require a unique performance headspace? To what extent is each of you experiencing catharsis through playing this music and is that something you’ve discussed?

A: This program of lamentations is certainly concentrated on a special theme, a special state of mind. At the same time, the fabric of Western music is shot through with threads of grief and mourning—it is a powerful and ever-present trait in the music we play, and I can’t think of an important work that doesn’t contain at least moments of sorrow. So it would be fair to say that the feeling of playing music of this sort is almost second nature to us. I expect that an audience member might be surprised if he could enter into our thoughts as performers during a program, how they might seem dry and practical in comparison to the music itself. This is the double nature of being a performer, to take care of the laundry list of details while never losing sight of the transcendental nature of the art that confronts us.

Having said that, we find that the audiences that have heard this program do indeed enter into a “unique headspace,” which is very much what we hope for. Taken as a body of work, the pieces on the program slow down time; they invite a meditative state and ask for the listener’s compassion as she contemplates these manifold expressions of grief and loss expressed from so many different times and places. The catharsis will take place, it is hoped, in the minds of those who are listening.

The Brentano String Quartet will perform its “Lamentations” program on Tuesday, Jan. 29, at 7:30 p.m., in Morse Recital Hall.

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Published January 22, 2019
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Rolston, Brentano quartet members talk about mentee-mentor relationship

Rolston String Quartet

Since September 2017, the Rolston String Quartet, a group that was coached at the 2016 Yale Summer School of Music/Norfolk Chamber Music Festival by the likes of the Brentano and Emerson string quartets before winning that year’s prestigious Banff International String Quartet Competition, has been the Yale School of Music’s fellowship quartet-in-residence. The opportunity to be mentored by the Brentano String Quartet, YSM’s quartet-in-residence, and to mentor undergraduates studying at the University’s Department of Music, while maintaining an active performance schedule, has been fruitful.

Rolston cellist Jonathan Lo pointed to collaborations with such distinguished School of Music faculty members as composer Hannah Lash, clarinetist David Shifrin, and flutist Ransom Wilson as invaluable opportunities. Of the Brentanos, Lo said, “They have been some of our foremost musical inspirations.” He described the Brentanos as “incredible musicians,” quick to share his appreciation for the chance “to be able to play for musicians of their caliber … one of the finest quartets in the world.”

Brentano violinist Mark Steinberg talked about the freedom YSM’s fellowship quartet-in-residence has at YSM to discover itself. “We give them regular coaching,” Steinberg said, “but we don’t overwhelm them.” The world doesn’t simply need more quartets, he said, but “we’re in a world that needs a string quartet with something urgent to say.”

Brentano String Quartet

Brentano String Quartet

Ideas are in plentiful supply at Yale, and “the University as a whole is open to (the Rolstons),” Steinberg said. “Everything that’s going on is fodder for your own thinking. The resources at Yale are incredible that way. It’s a really fertile place.”

The Rolstons’ residence, which ends in May 2019, has allowed them to pass some of their shared experience on to other, younger musicians. “For us to be able to work with the undergraduate students,” and to gain teaching experience, “is very invigorating for us,” Lo said. “Any serious ensemble should consider the (fellowship) program, because it offers a great balance of resources and input. It’s been everything that we could have hoped for.” 

 

ROLSTON STRING QUARTET

BRENTANO STRING QUARTET

Published September 7, 2018
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Emily Kruspe Joins Rolston String Quartet

Emily Kruspe

We spoke recently with violinist Emily Kruspe about joining YSM’s fellowship quartet-in-residence, the Rolston String Quartet, whose other three members have been working together for five years. Kruspe succeeds violinist Jeffrey Dyrda, who left the quartet to pursue new career opportunities.

“I’ve played a lot with professional ensembles, but never with a group so specialized as a quartet,” Kruspe said. “The other three have been playing together since 2013, and pretty much exclusively with each other, so they are extremely aware and good at reading each other’s body language, among many other things. The challenge for me is fitting in enough so as not to disrupt what has already been so well established, yet to have my own personality and voice in the group. In our rehearsals, there is actually a lot of discussion and demonstration. Not everything can be picked up by listening and imitation—ideas must be translated in other forms.”

Kruspe discussed the challenges of learning repertoire that the rest of the ensemble already knows. “Up until very recently, I have been playing pieces the quartet has rehearsed, been coached on, and performed,” Kruspe said. “To fit into an established interpretation of a work that has already been meticulously analyzed is difficult, but very rewarding. I am using parts of my brain I have never exercised before! What makes a lot of the challenging stuff easier is that these three musicians are among the easiest people to play with. They are very accommodating and clear, and it simplifies a lot for me.”

Kruspe also spoke about the opportunity to be mentored by the Brentano String Quartet, YSM’s quartet-in-residence. “Working with the Brentano Quartet—what can I say—I feel extremely fortunate. They are among the best quartets in the world, and are such wonderful people. I am so looking forward to working with and learning from them.”

ROLSTON STRING QUARTET

BRENTANO STRING QUARTET

Published June 21, 2018
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Argus Quartet, pianist Dominic Cheli share first prize at Concert Artists Guild competition

The Argus Quartet (photo by Ben Gibbs) and Dominic Cheli (photo by Gallia Kastler)

The Argus Quartet, the ensemble that served from 2015 to 2017 as YSM’s fellowship quartet-in-residence, and pianist Dominic Cheli ’16MM, have been named joint first-prize winners of the annual Concert Artists Guild Victor Elmaleh Competition. The quartet and Cheli will each receive a $5,000 cash prize and a management contract and will be presented in recital at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, in addition to other opportunities.

The final round of the competition took place on October 17 at Merkin Concert Hall at the Kaufman Music Center in New York City and was judged by a nine-person jury. Two YSM students won prizes at last year’s Concert Artist Guild competition. Guitarist Jiyeon “Jiji” Kim ’17MM won the top prize, and double bassist Samuel Suggs ’14MM ’20DMA was named the organization’s New Music/New Places Fellow.

The Argus Quartet, which was founded in Los Angeles in 2013, was named the first-place winner in the Senior Strings division of the University of Michigan’s M-Prize Chamber Arts Competition in May, which earned the group a $20,000 cash award and a residency at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance during the 2017-2018 academic year. At YSM, the Argus Quartet was the first ensemble to be mentored by the School’s ensemble-in-residence, the Brentano String Quartet. The Argus Quartet is currently the graduate quartet-in-residence at The Juilliard School.

Cheli, who studied at the Yale School of Music under the tutelage of pianist Peter Frankl, has performed at such venues as Carnegie Hall, Le Poisson Rouge, and Sheldon Concert Hall in his hometown, St. Louis. He is currently an artist diploma candidate at the Colburn Conservatory of Music, where he studies with Fabio Bidini. Cheli recently recorded a CD of music by Muzio Clementi at the Yale School of Music for an album that was released on the Naxos label.

ARGUS QUARTET

DOMINIC CHELI

Published October 19, 2017
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Rachel Cheung ’13MM reaches finals, wins Audience Award at Van Cliburn Competition

Rachel Cheung performs with Leonard Slatkin and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra in the final round of the Van Cliburn Competition. Photo by Ralph Lauer/The Cliburn

School of Music alumna Rachel Cheung ’13MM was one of six finalists at the Fifteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, which took place May 25 through June 10 in Fort Worth, Texas. She took home $12,500 in cash prizes — $10,000 for reaching the final round and $2,500 for earning the Audience Award. As a finalist, Cheung also received a promotional package, which includes photos, additional marketing materials, and media training.

In the course of the competition in Fort Worth, Cheung, who studied at YSM with Peter Frankl, performed three different recital programs, a piano quintet with the Brentano String Quartet — YSM’s quartet-in-residence — and two concerti.

YSM alumna Sun-A Park ’16AD ’17MMA, who studied at YSM with Boris Berman, also participated in the prestigious competition, performing a recital in the preliminary round and taking home a $1,000 cash prize.

Of the 290 pianists who applied, 140 were selected for live auditions. Cheung auditioned in Seoul, in January, and Park auditioned in New York, in February. Only 30 pianists, including Cheung and Park, were invited to compete in Fort Worth.

Sun-A Park performs during the preliminary round of the Van Cliburn Competition. Photo by Ralph Lauer/The Cliburn

According to its website, the Van Cliburn Competition, which is held every four years, is widely recognized as “one of the world’s highest-visibility classical-music contests” and has been responsible for launching the careers of some of the world’s most prominent pianists.

Related:
PIANISTS SUN-A PARK AND RACHEL CHEUNG TO PARTICIPATE IN VAN CLIBURN COMPETITION

Published June 12, 2017
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Rolston String Quartet named YSM’s new fellowship quartet-in-residence

Rolston String Quartet | Photo by Tianxiao Zhang Photography

The Rolston String Quartet ’16Norfolk has been named the new fellowship quartet-in-residence at the Yale School of Music. The group, whose previous residencies include the Yale Summer School of Music/Norfolk Chamber Music Festival in the summer of 2016, will begin their tenure at YSM this fall. While at Yale, the quartet will work closely with the Brentano String Quartet — YSM’s quartet-in-residence — perform recitals, and participate in education-outreach programs.

“The Rolston String Quartet is very eager to come to New Haven as the Yale School of Music’s fellowship quartet-in-residence,” the group said in a statement. “We are incredibly optimistic about the possibilities for development and growth provided by Yale’s stimulating environment. We can’t wait to meet the Yale students and faculty who will illuminate and influence this new experience. Working closely with the Brentano Quartet is a dream come true. They are endlessly generous and inspiring people whose artistic spirits are to be admired. We look forward to deepening our musical understandings, refining our interpretations, and benefiting from their extensive professional experience.

“We will be so lucky to be able to coach chamber ensembles made up of Yale (undergraduate) students; this opportunity is a rare one that will yield immense insight into the complexities of teaching music. The fellowship program at Yale will aid our growth as we cultivate an ensemble that reflects the values of community, the highest levels of artistic and academic excellence, and the important traditions of chamber music,” the group said.

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Published May 16, 2017
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Convocation 2016 Celebrates “Transcendent Yale Legacy”

YSM Dean Robert Blocker | Photo by Harold Shapiro

YSM Dean Robert Blocker | Convocation 2016

In his Convocation address, titled Music: A Transcendent Yale Legacy, School of Music Dean Robert Blocker told incoming and returning students, faculty, staff, and guests that “transcendent qualities are born and nurtured by people. Yale University and the School of Music are a collection of voices, a community and society of mutual learners. We, along with our predecessors, came here to better prepare ourselves to repair the world.

“It may surprise some of you to know that when the Yale Corporation voted to establish a School of Music in 1894, they also approved a Bachelor of Music degree that was open to women and men,” Blocker said in his remarks during the September 8, 2016, ceremony. “Cynics might say that not offering a Bachelor of Arts in Music retained the exclusivity of Yale College as a male enclave, but I find it a lot more interesting and compelling that music was Yale’s very first commitment to diversity and inclusivity.”

Celebrating the “transcendent voices” that have shaped the School’s legacy, Blocker recognized Ellen and Carl Stoeckel, Helen Hagan, Elaine Toscanini, Aldo Parisot, and Willie Ruff, among others.

“These transcendent musical voices of Yale and their cultural leadership transform lives, enrich communities, and bring hope to a broken world,” Blocker said. “Yale’s sons and daughters entrusted some of humankind’s treasures to us so that the transcendent qualities of character and mind, of light and truth – Yale’s motto, lux et veritas – can live through each of us and can bring hope to our planet. That is our responsibility, and it is our joy.” MORE

Published September 12, 2016
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[ concerts ]

Brentano String Quartet presents music by Dvorák, Haydn, and Shostakovich Jan. 26

brentano-homeThe Oneppo Chamber Music Series at the Yale School of Music presents the acclaimed Brentano String Quartet on Tuesday, January 26 at 7:30 pm. The quartet, which joined the Yale faculty in 2014, will perform music by Joseph Haydn, Dmitri Shostakovich, and Antonin Dvorák.

The concert will begin with Haydn‘s Quartet in F-sharp minor, Op. 50, No. 4, Hob. III:47. The work is part of a set of six quartets that Haydn dedicated to King Frederick William II of Prussia, himself an amateur cellist, and the piece contains some notable passages for the cello.

Next on the program is Shostakovich‘s String Quartet No. 14 in F-sharp major, Op. 142. Like the preceding work, this quartet was dedicated to a cellist, Sergei Shirinsky (who premiered several of Shostakovich’s string quartets), and features the instrument throughout the piece. MORE

Published December 21, 2015
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[ career strategies ]

Career Strategies presents a conversation with the Brentano Quartet Sep. 30

brentano_vOn Wednesday, September 30, Astrid Baumgardner will interview the members of the Brentano Quartet on the topic of artistic careers and collaboration in the 21st century. The interview takes place at 4:30 pm in Morse Recital Hall (located in Sprague Hall at 470 College Street).

The Brentano String Quartet is ensemble-in-residence at the Yale School of Music, where they perform in concert each semester and work closely with students in chamber music contexts. The members of the quartet are Mark Steinberg, violin; Serena Canin, violin; Misha Amory, viola; and Nina Lee, cello. Read more about the quartet here.

Students will have the opportunity to ask questions. The event will be streamed live on the School of Music’s website.

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Published September 22, 2015
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