ADAM BARNETT-HART AND DANBI UM, VIOLIN
PIERRE LAPOINTE, VIOLA
BROOK SPELTZ, CELLO
WITH MATTHEW LIPMAN, VIOLA
AND JAMES AUSTIN SMITH, OBOE
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 in the 2015-16 season 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. Last season the Quartet toured China with the CMSLC. The 2017-18 season finds the Escher Quartet touring the U.S. extensively, performing in numerous cities including New York, San Francisco, Richmond, W. Palm Beach, Indianapolis, Columbus, and Santa Fe. Internationally they will be performing in the United Kingdom and Hungary.
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 Perlmanto be Quartet in Residence at each artist’s summer festival: the Young Artists Program at Canada’s National Arts Centre; and the Perlman Chamber Music Program 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. 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 andAuditorium du Louvre. With a strong collaborative approach, the group has appeared at festivals such as the Heidelberg Spring Festival, Dublin’s Great Music in Irish Houses, the Risør Chamber Music Festival in Norway, the Hong Kong International Chamber Music Festival and the Perth International Arts Festival in Australia.
Last season saw 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 a performance at London’s 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 returned last 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.
The recipient of a prestigious 2015 Avery Fisher Career Grant, American violist Matthew Lipman has been hailed by the New York Times for his “rich tone and elegant phrasing” and by the Chicago Tribune for his “splendid technique and musical sensitivity.” As one of the most promising young advocates of his instrument, his debut recording of Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante with violinist Rachel Barton Pine and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields with Sir Neville Marriner was released last year on the Avie label and reached No. 2 on the Billboard classical charts. Next season, Mr. Lipman will debut as soloist with the Minnesota Orchestra and Illinois Philharmonic, and he has performed concertos with the Grand Rapids Symphony, Wisconsin Chamber, Juilliard, Ars Viva Symphony, and Montgomery Symphony orchestras and recitals at the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., South Orange Performing Arts Center in New Jersey. The only violist featured on WFMT Chicago’s international list of 30 Under 30 top classical musicians, he has been profiled by The Strad and BBC Music magazines and performed Penderecki’s Cadenza for solo viola live on WQXR New York with the composer in attendance. Mr. Lipman has performed with the Chamber Music Society at Alice Tully Hall, Wigmore Hall, and at the Kissinger Sommer Festival in Germany as a member of CMS Two and was a top prizewinner of the Tertis, Primrose, Washington, and Stulberg International competitions and is a NFMC Young Artist. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees as an inaugural Kovner fellow from The Juilliard School, where he continues to serve as teaching assistant to Heidi Castleman, and he has also studied with Misha Amory, Steven Tenenbom and Roland Vamos. A native of Chicago, Mr. Lipman performs on a fine 1700 Matteo Goffriller viola loaned through the generous efforts of the RBP Foundation.
JAMES AUSTIN SMITH
Praised for his “virtuosic,” “dazzling” and “brilliant” performances (The New York Times) and his “bold, keen sound” (The New Yorker), oboist James Austin Smith performs equal parts new and old music across the United States and around the world. Mr. Smith is an artist of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), the Talea Ensemble and Cygnus as well as co-Artistic Director of Decoda, the Affiliate Ensemble of Carnegie Hall. He is a member of the faculties of the Manhattan School of Music and the State University of New York at Purchase and is co-Artistic Director of Tertulia, a chamber music series that takes place in restaurants in New York and San Francisco. Mr. Smith’s festival appearances include Marlboro, Lucerne, Chamber Music Northwest, Schleswig-Holstein, Stellenbosch, Bay Chamber Concerts, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, OK Mozart, Schwetzingen and Spoleto USA; he has performed with the St. Lawrence, Orion and Parker string quartets and recorded for the Nonesuch, Bridge, Mode and Kairos labels. His debut solo recording “Distance” was released in early 2015 on South Africa’s TwoPianists Record Label.
Mr. Smith received his Master of Music degree in 2008 from the Yale School of Music and graduated in 2005 with Bachelor of Arts (Political Science) and Bachelor of Music degrees from Northwestern University. He spent a year as a Fulbright Scholar in Leipzig, Germany at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater “Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy” and is an alumnus of Ensemble ACJW, a collaboration of Carnegie Hall, The Juilliard School, the Weill Music Institute and the New York City Department of Education. Mr. Smith’s principal teachers are Stephen Taylor, Christian Wetzel, Humbert Lucarelli and Ray Still.
The son of musician parents and eldest of four boys, Mr. Smith was born in New York and raised in Connecticut.
The Hunt Quartet, # 17 K. 458, Oboe Quartet, K. 370, String Quintet, # 4 K. 516
By Aaron Grad
The young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) had privileged access to a world of musical knowledge, and he absorbed all of it. Everywhere his travels as a keyboard prodigy took him—London, Paris, Milan, Vienna—he folded the best local practices into his compositional toolkit. Thanks to Joseph Haydn, Vienna was the epicenter of the string quartet, and Mozart wrote his finest early quartets during the summer he spent there as a 17-year-old.
He wrote no more quartets before he moved to Vienna in 1781, but the publication that year of Haydn’s latest set revived Mozart’s interest. He composed six quartets between 1782 and 1785, a period when he also befriended Haydn and played quartets with him for fun. Mozart published the six quartets with a dedication to Haydn that read, in part, “Here they are then, O great Man and dearest Friend, these six children of mine. … May it therefore please you to receive them kindly and to be their Father, Guide and Friend!”
The String Quartet in B-flat Major, K. 458 (“The Hunt”), the third of Mozart’s “Haydn” quartets, gets its nickname from the characteristic intervals and rhythmic patterns of the first theme, modeled after the sound of hunting horns. The spry finale was actually Mozart’s second try, after he abandoned a draft in the style of a Polonaise dance.
The Oboe Quartet in F Major, K. 370, is another outgrowth of Mozart’s travels. During a 1778 visit to Mannheim, Germany, he befriended musicians from the court orchestra (arguably the finest in the world) and learned new instrumental effects pioneered by Mannheim’s composers. Three years later the orchestra was based in Munich, and Mozart gladly accepted an invitation to come present a new opera. While working on Idomeneo, he also wrote this quartet for his friend Friedrich Ramm. Mozart’s regard for the star oboist is especially evident in the finale, with its sinuous runs, clashing rhythmic layers, and a range that reaches all the way up to F, the oboe’s highest pitch available at the time.
Mozart composed two string quintets in 1787, with a plan to sell them on subscription. He borrowed money against his expected earnings, and his financial difficulties compounded when the planned publication foundered for lack of interest. As with all of his earlier examples, these quintets included a second part for viola, Mozart’s preferred instrument when playing chamber music.
Mozart turned to the key of G minor for some of his most emotionally turbulent music, including a piano quartet in 1785 and the Symphony No. 40 in 1788. A year before penning that symphony’s memorable first theme, with its chromatic sighs balanced against vigorous leaps, Mozart mined similar territory in the Allegro opening of the String Quintet in G Minor (K. 516). The finale’s bleak introduction again leans on rising and falling half-steps, but a merciful modulation to G major allows for a gracious conclusion.
© 2017 Aaron Grad.