Showing posts with label Serafin String Quartet. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Serafin String Quartet. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

University of Delaware Hosts a Mendelssohn Marathon

By Margaret Darby
The Music Department of the University of Delaware has put on some amazing concerts over the years. Their latest Mendelssohn Festival with The Calidore String Quartet as visiting guest artists is an ambitious undertaking with all of the published string quartets of Felix Mendelssohn and his Octet for Strings, performed with UD's Ensemble-in-Residence, Serafin String Quartet.

The Calidore Quartet was founded in 2010 while the members were in Los Angeles studying at the Colburn Conservatory. They discovered their potential as an ensemble when they first began to work on the Mendelssohn String Quartet, Opus 13, which was actually the composer’s first mature string quartet, although it was the second to be published.

The Calidore String Quartet.
Mendelssohn was 18 years old he wrote this quartet, and although his prowess as a pianist was well known, he actually played violin and viola quite well, so his composition for both instruments came from a thorough knowledge of how they were played. He, like Beethoven, put a lot of emphasis on the middle voices.

Both Estelle Choi, cello and Jeremy Berry, viola are able to bring these voices to the fore without dominating the ensemble’s sound. The first two movements of Four pieces for quartet, Opus 81 feature the viola leading the melodic chase, but the cello also has a big and dominant part in the Tema con variazioni which segues into a brief but thrilling Presto. Choi’s vibrant tone and acute attention to detail makes the harmony for the quartet work.

In all of the music of the first two days of the festival, the sound was so well blended that it seemed almost to be performed by a single musician. First violinist Jeffrey Myers, a tall and lanky man, leans into his violin, tilting his head to the left as if to hear himself better. But then he turns to the other players before lowering the sound of the violin as he plays in the low register, to just the point at which you can hear his soft melodic line over the others, who manage to play even softer at the end of the Allegro vivace of Opus 13. As the recapitulation of the theme (Mendelssohn’s short song: Ist es wahr?/Is it true?), the quartet diminishes the sound to the softest nothing as they reach the final chord.

When the two violinists Jeffrey Meyers and Ryan Meehan trade off the melodic lines in the Scherzo of the Four pieces for string quartet, Opus 81, it is impossible to tell who is playing. Their innate ability to match each other’s intonation and bowing make it sound like a single line of music. Each of them also have a solid sound in the low register of the violin which projects well, even at a soft dynamic.

The Calidore played the String Quartet Opus 44, No. 3 so fast that the sixteenth note patterns which come after the repeat in the Allegro vivace sound like trills — magically even and exciting. They played the fourth movement, Molto allegro con fuoco, with very big sforzandi, giving the entire movement a playful, roller coaster feel.

When they played the last quartet written by Mendelssohn, Opus 80, they talked about how he wrote this after his beloved sister Fanny died suddenly. He used this very beautiful piece as a metaphor of his grief, writing a wailing and sustained high B-flat for the first violin, which Jeffrey Myers managed to make a delicate cry of anguish.

Having a quartet of this caliber visit the Gore Recital Hall, with its fine acoustics for such intimate concerts, is a treasure. The Calidore have won impressive international chamber music competitions. They have a wide range of repertoire, including some dissonant and modern pieces like the Anton Webern Five Movements for String Quartet, Opus 5, which you can hear online here.

And if you miss the Mendelssohn Festival, the Calidore Quartet’s mentors, the Emerson Quartet, will appear at the University of Delaware on Sunday, April 30.

See or call 302.831.2577.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Serafin String Quartet Welcomes Violist Sheila Browne

Post content courtesy of press release from Serafin String Quartet...
Serafin String Quartet (SSQ) is pleased to welcome Shelia Browne as its new violist. Ms. Browne replaces Esme Allen-Creighton, who stepped down after four years with SSQ to pursue a degree in music therapy.

Ms. Browne has also recently been named the new Assistant Professor of Viola at University of Delaware's Department of Music. She joins both the University and the Quartet from her position at University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where she has been on the faculty for 10 years.

The Quartet is delighted that Ms. Browne has accepted the position. They will be working together this summer to prepare for an exciting first season, with performances at the University of Delaware, where the Quartet has recently accepted re-appointment as Quartet in Residence for the next three years.

A preview of SSQ's 2016-2017 season, including performance dates on local series at The Arts at Trinity and The Music School of Delaware, will be announced soon.


Friday, February 19, 2016

Women Composers Take Over the Evening at The Music School of Delaware

By Christine Facciolo
For centuries, women composers were little more than a footnote in music history. Considered a novelty, their work rarely left the confines of the drawing room or recital parlor, if they got performed at all. Even the celebrated pianist Clara Wieck Schumann felt compelled to fill her programs with the works of her husband or their friend Johannes Brahms rather than her own.

So it was only fitting that a program honoring women composers open with one of Wieck Schumann’s own compositions, the Scherzo No. 2 in C minor (1845). The little sonic gem received an expansive and probing interpretation from Holly Roadfeldt Wednesday, February 17 at The Music School of Delaware in Wilmington.

The concert, which benefitted the Anthony G. Simmons Scholarship Fund and other scholarships, served to encourage young female musicians by emphasizing the works of living women composers. Roadfeldt remembered her disappointment at hearing one of her students say she felt she could not pursue composition because she was a woman.

Roadfeldt’s muscularity and poetic power were on fine display in three of the four pieces from Joan Tower’s No Longer Very Clear collection. Her fingers never stopped from the moment she placed them on the keyboard for Or Like a…an Engine (1994). Think Ondine from Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit. The second piece, Vast Antique Cubes (2000), gave Roadfeldt the opportunity to play in legato before tackling Throbbing Still (2000), Tower’s recollection of the rhythms she experienced growing up in South America. Think Inca Empire meets Stravinsky.

The Serafin String Quartet offered two works by Julia Adolphe. Just twenty-eight years old, Adolphe, a doctoral student in music composition at the University of Southern California, has already achieved considerable success. In 2014 she became one of three young composers chosen to have their work performed by the New York Philharmonic. She is now working on a commission from the Phil, a viola concerto for its principal violist.

Serafin and Adolphe share a passion for exploring new musical worlds. Veil of Leaves (2014) shows Adolphe’s potential for becoming a premier composer for this most intimate of forms. The work begins with the strings in unison but continuously diverges and converges in a swirl of pitch and texture. This is a piece that demands not only supreme musicianship but deep concentration which was etched on the players’ faces.

Between the Accidental (2010) engaged the quartet in a contrapuntal tour de force, juxtaposing jarring dissonances with modal melodies in a netherworld of tonality.

Roadfeldt took the stage again to perform two works by Philadelphia-based composer Kala Pierson. Spark (2014) and Flare (2016), the latter of which received its World Premiere at the concert with the composer in attendance. As their names suggest, these works are rhythmically fluid and vividly expressive 
 perfectly suited to Roadfeldt’s flair for intensity and meditative focus.

Pianist Jennifer Campbell appeared as both performer and composer, offering Perceptions of Shadows, a work she wrote in 2013. This is an intensely introspective piece, showing that as shadows change with time, so do our perceptions of life’s struggles. This work proves that Campbell is not only an acclaimed pianist but a composer of great insight and sensitivity.

Campbell joined forces with violist Esme Allen-Creighton for a first-rate performance of Rebecca Clarke’s Sonata for Viola and Piano. This work written in 1919 is packed with big-hearted melodies and delicate colors. It’s hard to fathom how and why it missed winning first place in competition and why it doesn’t get more outings than it does.

Allen-Creighton brought together all the right elements 
— robust sound, free-flowing legato lines, unbridled lyricism as well as a technically assured presentation — to make us want to hear more from an instrument that continues to play, well, second fiddle to the violin. Campbell supplied the virtuosic pianistic accompaniment which was as demanding as any concerto.