Takacs Quartet presents campus series with new second violinist Harumi Rhodes

Programs from the heart of the chamber music repertoire

By Peter Alexander Sept. 20 at 7:30 p.m.

09-Takacs-Quartet-Amanda-Tipton-photography.jpg

Takacs Quartet: Edward Dusinberre, Geraldine Walther, Harumi Rhodes, and András Fejér (L-R). Photo by Amanda Tipton

The Takacs Quartet launches their 2018–19 CU campus concert series, the first with new second violinist Harumi Rhodes, Sunday and Monday (Sept. 23–24).

Rhodes joined the quartet last spring, following the retirement of founding second violinist Károly Schranz. She has made one recording and toured with the quartet over the summer, but this will be her first year-long series as a member.

The program for the fall’s opening concerts features works by three great composers of chamber music for strings: Joseph Haydn, Schubert and Shostakovich. Two of the pieces are not well known, as they are not performed often—Haydn’s Quartet in D major, op. 20 no. 4, and Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 4. In contrast, the third work on the program, Schubert’s String Quintet in C major, is one of the greatest and most beloved chamber works of the 19th century.

Cellist David Requiro, a member of the College of Music faculty, will join the members of Takacs for the Schubert’s Quintet.

The second concert of the fall semester is scheduled for Oct. 28 and 29. It will feature another piece by Haydn—the Quartet in D minor, op. 76—alongside works by Bartók and Brahms. Notably, both concerts feature composers considered to be the heart of the Classic-Romantic chamber music repertoire.

Takacs.Dusinberre.CUphoto-X2

Edward Dusinberre

You might think that changing members in a well tuned ensemble such as the Takacs Quartet would require difficult adjustments, but Edward Dusinberre, the quartet’s first violinist, says that has not been the case. “We feel very comfortable with her,” he says of Rhodes. “We’re having a great time. She’s got chamber music and string quartets in her blood.”

He also points out that playing in a string quartet is always a process of negotiation among the ensemble members, and Rhodes fits into the environment very well. “When you’re playing chamber music, every phrase is an adjustment,” he says. “She’s got a very strong artistic voice, and that’s one of the reasons we chose her.

“Within the group there are always three or four different opinions, so that doesn’t change. It’s not like she’s coming into a situation where three of us have a standardized view of how things should be played. It’s totally not like that, so (adding Rhodes) feels like continuing the good work.”

Rhodes1

Harumi Rhodes

The transition has been very positive for Rhodes, too. She was a unable to speak to me, but sent some written observations: “Everything about joining the Takacs has changed my life for the better,” she wrote. “As soon as I joined the Takacs, I assumed a new identity. Filling this role with pride and joy is what every bone in my body was made to do.”

She has played chamber music for many years, but she has found new pleasures in the Takacs. “The biggest surprise has been the luxury of performing the same piece many times. I’ve always enjoyed the process of rehearsing and performing. But the trajectory is completely different when you have a life-long relationship with this music in this way, a relationship that spans many concerts in one season. This is new to me.”

Her email to me concluded with great enthusiasm: “I look at the season ahead and can’t wait to dive in.”

Dusinberre says that whether the pieces are familiar or not, everything on the Sept. 23–24 concerts is music the quartet enjoys. “Haydn’s Op. 20 No. 4 is one of our favorite pieces,” he says. “It’s got a slow movement where the solos are very well distributed between the parts. The minuet is tremendously fun, sort of off-kilter—Haydn tricking his audience, tricking us sometimes!”

According to Dusinberre, the first movement is one of the places where quartet playing does require negotiation among the members. “It’s got a rather simple opening theme that comes back many times, in different ways. There’s different ways of bowing it, and it’s like opening a can of worms to find out what bowing we’re going to do. We’ve already had some entertaining rehearsals on that.”

David Requiro

Cellist David Requiro

The Shostakovich Fourth Quartet is actually one that the Takacs has not played before. “It’s quite fun because it’s new for all of us, and not just Harumi, and I think that’s quite nice, because it sort of levels the playing field,” he says. “It’s a wonderful piece (that has) a strong sense of folk melodies early in the piece, and then it turns into something a bit darker and more dramatic and more exciting.”

The Schubert Quintet in C major is part of larger plans by the quartet. “We’re playing (the quintet) on the road with David (Requiro), at the White Lights Festival at Lincoln Center in October,” Dusinberre says.

“He’s a wonderful player. We’re very excited to explore this piece with him.”

# # # # #

Takacs Quartet
CU Fall Concerts

04-Takacs-Quartet-Amanda-Tipton-photography.jpg

Takacs Quartet. Photo by Amanda Tipton.

4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 23, and 7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 24
Grusin Music Hall

Haydn: String Quartet in D Major, op. 20 no. 4
Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 4 in D Major, op. 83
Schubert: String Quintet in C Major, D956
With David Requiro, cello

4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28, and 7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 29
Grusin Music Hall

Haydn: String Quartet No. 2 in D minor, op. 76
Bartók: String Quartet No. 1
Brahms: String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, op. 51

Tickets

Dusinberre, Katsarelis and Pro Musica premiere concerto by Jeffrey Nytch

Powerfully expressive work, written from the heart, reaching out to hearts

By Peter Alexander April 15 at 12:15 a.m.

A remarkable new work by Jeffrey Nytch, the Violin Concerto: Costa Concordia, has been brought to Colorado audiences by the Colorado Pro Music Chamber Orchestra, conductor Cynthia Katsarelis and violinist Edward Dusinberre.

The official premiere was Friday (April 13) in Denver, with a second performance, which I attended, last night in Boulder (April 14). Both performance and work were assured, polished, and deeply moving.

Nytch,Jeffrey

Composer Jeffrey Nytch. Courtesy CU photo archive.

Nytch is an associate professor of composition and director of the Entrepreneurship Center for Music at the CU College of Music. He was inspired to write the concerto by the fate of the Hungarian violinist Sandor Feher, who died when the cruise ship Costa Concordia sank in 2012. When the ship collided with the rocky shore, Feher first assisted other passengers, including children, and then went to retrieve his violin. He never came back.

“I heard this story and felt that I had to respond to it in a musical way,” Nytch has said. What he chose to do was to tell the story of the violin, not the violinist. This is a highly original creative decision, one that led Nytch away from the events of Feher’s story, toward the moods the story passes through. The concerto is thus more universal, and more deeply moving.

Feher.violinist19n-3-web

Sandor Feher

Looked at in another way, the concerto is programmatic, but not in the usual sense. That is, it does not have a program of events, with music representing the collision or Feher’s descent back into the ship. Instead it has an emotional program, portraying in turn the jollity of the fiddle and its player in good times, the loneliness of their separation, and finally a vision of their reunion in another realm.

cruise.jpeg.size-custom-crop.1086x0

The Costa Concordia sinking (2012)

The result is a powerfully expressive work, because Nytch found effective musical means to convey each step of this emotional journey. And that emotional program, written from the composer’s heart, pulls the listeners in and reaches out to their hearts.

The concerto starts with a deep and foreboding prologue, with a ”churning,” the section title tells us, that could be the ship’s propellers swirling beneath the waves. This is followed by an impassioned cadenza that dramatically invokes the unity of player and instrument. Here Dusinberre became the ideal interpreter, playing with intensity and technical brilliance.

The next section of the work, titled “Dancing, lighthearted,” has hints of Eastern European rhythms and dances that Feher might have played, but without sounding like quotes of folk music or specific Gypsy tunes. The lighter mood gives away to ever more frantic fiddling until a furious climax is reached.

Ed Dusinberre Takacs Quartet Publicity Photo

Edward Dusinberre. Courtesy CU photo archive.

The remainder of the concerto contains the most arresting and original music of the piece. First there is a lengthy passage of utter emptiness, suggesting loneliness yet without despair. Borrowing from Dusinberre’s description, “there’s an extraordinary disembodied quality to it, (as if) the violinist ceases to be there, (leaving only) the sound of the instrument.”

Slow moving, tonal chords used to represent a sweet, consoling ending is one of the most obvious clichés of Western music, and yet Nytch makes them fresh and effective. The sheer beauty of the final section feels like the inevitable outcome of the concerto’s emotional journey. This, I thought, is the story that Nytch had to tell: not the specifics of Feher’s heroism and sacrifice, but a universal yearning for transcendence.

Dusinberre, more often heard as first violinist of the Takacs Quartet, was an inspired interpreter of the concerto. He had mastered the concerto’s many technical demands, playing with a consistency and beauty of tone. He easily soared above the texture, in spite of the sometimes urgent activity of the orchestra. Based on this riveting performance, I would like to hear him more often as a concerto soloist, if only his other far-flung commitments would allow it.

Photography by Glenn Ross. http://on.fb.me/16KNsgK

Cynthia Katsarelis. Photo by Glenn Ross.

Katsarelis and the players of Pro Musica gave solid and committed support, ideally matching the composer’s moods. Before Costa Concordia, they gave an assured and well prepared performance of Bartók’s Divertimento for String Orchestra. Throughout, the different episodes from which the score is constructed were well characterized, all of the changes of mood clearly delineated.

They did not hold back for the more bumptious sections or the most piercing climaxes, which were well contrasted with moments of near silence. The Divertimento represented a satisfying performance of a piece that Katsarelis and the players obviously enjoy. Sometimes, that’s just what you want.

Pro Musica’s ‘Heart of Hungary’ puts the spotlight on a world premiere

New Violin Concerto by Jeff Nytch will feature Edward Dusinberre as soloist

By Peter Alexander April 13 at 5:20 p.m.

Some stories just have to be told.

Nytch,Jeffrey

Jeff Nytch. Courtesy of CU Photo Archive.

That is what composer Jeffrey Nytch thought when he heard about Sandor Feher, a violinist on the cruise ship Costa Concordia who died going back to retrieve his violin when the ship sank off the coast of Italy in 2012. “I heard this story and I was just incredibly moved by it,” Nytch says. “I felt that I had to respond to it in a musical way.”

The world premiere Nytch’s musical response, his Violin Concerto: Costa Concordia, will be presented by violinist Edward Dusinberre with the Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra and conductor Cynthia Katsarelis. Performances will be Friday (April 13) in Cherry Hills Village and Saturday (April 14) in Boulder.

Pro Musica will also perform Bartók’s Divertimento for Strings both nights.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

# # # # #

Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra, Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor
With Edward Dusinberre, violin

Jeffrey Nytch: Violin Concerto:Costa Concordia(World Premiere)
Béla Bartók: Divertimento for String Orchestra

7:30 p.m. Friday, April 13
Bethany Lutheran Church, 4500 E. Hampden Avenue,Cherry Hills Village
7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 14
Mountain View United Methodist Church, 355 Ponca Place, Boulder

Tickets

Boulder Phil in fine form for Mozart, Beethoven and Adés

Dusinberre and Walther delightful in Mozart Sinfonia Concertante

By Peter Alexander

The Boulder Philharmonic was in fine form last night (Nov. 6), as they presented two exquisite soloists as part of a season of duo-solo performances.

ed-geri_ellenappel_04-01

Edward Dusinberre and Geraldine Walther

Violinist Edward Dusinberre and violist Geraldine Walther, members of the Takacs Quartet, played Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola with the orchestra. Conductor Michael Butterman also led the Phil in a fascinating work by British composer Thomas Adés and a bracing performance of Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony.

But first things first: Mozart. The interplay of the two soloists is central to the Sinfonia Concertante, and it is here that Dusinberre and Walther elevated their performance to the highest level. They are of course great individual players, but as members of a world-class string quartet, chamber music partners who play together professionally virtually every day, they have honed the ability to respond to one another in tone, mood, phrasing and pitch—all the myriad details that make a great performance.

Of all the delights they offered, I will single out one: There is a joint cadenza in the first movement, with the parts written out for the players. Walther and Dusinberre were so perfectly aligned in pitch and rhythm and the freedom of their phrasing that it sounded like one person on two instruments. I have never heard that passage better.

Their experienced partnership made the performance a pleasure to watch as well as hear. You could see the communication between them, as they shared their enjoyment of Mozart’s playful interchanges between soloists in the outer movements, and the beautiful sharing of extended melodies of the slow movement. And through their interactions, they shared that enjoyment with the audience.

It has to be said that Macky is not a great venue for this work There is a reason that Butterman has programmed more Romantic works than Mozart, in order to achieve what he calls “a sonic size appropriate for Macky Auditorium.” At times the Mozart sounded distant—and if it sounds that way from Row M, what must it sound like from the back or the mezzanine?

The concert began with Adés’s Three Studies from Couperin, orchestrations of harpsichord works by the French Baroque composer François Couperin. Himself a keyboard player, Adés has said that the best day he could imagine would be playing Couperin all day. I expect few in the audience have that degree of enthusiasm for the composer, but last night’s performance may well have boosted the appreciation for his strongly characterized and characteristic works.

Like the originals, Adés’s orchestrations are highly individual, offering a wondrous mix of colors. These are watercolors to the bright paintings of some orchestra arrangements—subtle and subdued hues that were given a well blended and warm interpretation by Butterman and the orchestra.

Buttermn.new

Michael Butterman. Photo by Glenn Ross

Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony was the first orchestral score I ever owned, so the rare performances are always both musical and nostalgic treasures for me. I admit I am prejudiced in favor of anyone who programs the Eighth, but I was definitely not disappointed by last night’s performance. Even though the Eighth is scored for a smaller classical orchestra, without trombones or doubled winds, the Phil’s sound was full enough to create a real presence in the hall.

Butterman’s interpretation was highly energetic, a bit on the muscular side, but none the less enjoyable for that. He found a good balance between Beethovenian outbursts, aided and abetted by a vigorous timpanist, and the more lyrical and light-hearted moments of the symphony. The second movement, marked Allegretto scherzando, was very brisk, more scherzando than allegretto. A slightly slower pace would allow the listener to enjoy Beethoven’s good cheer a bit more in this cheeky, clucking stand-in for a slow movement.

The finale was, as it should be, even faster, but here the tempo worked entirely to Beethoven’s advantage. The Boulder Philharmonic stayed right with Butterman’s galloping pace right to the end. Beethoven’s Eighth is perhaps too light hearted to elicit cheers, but the performance was more than worthy of a hearty “Bravo!”

CU’s Takács Quartet and Edward Dusinberre in the news

The Economist praises Dusinberre’s “fascinating book”

By Peter Alexander

Takacs.Dusinberre.CUphoto-X2

Edward Dusinberre

The Economist, the weekly newsmagazine published in London, has published an article—it is more a description of the book and its subject than a review—about Takács Quartet first violinist Edward Dusinberre’s new book on the Beethoven string quartets.

The Tákacs is the quartet-in-residence at the University of Colorado, Boulder College of Music; Dusinberre and the other members are Ralph E. and Barbara L. Christoffersen Faculty Fellows.

Beethoven for a Later Age: The Journey of a String Quartet was published in England by Faber & Faber and will be published in the U.S. by the University of Chicago Press in May. “Mr Dusinberre is the lead violinist of the Takács Quartet, one of the world’s most highly regarded string ensembles, and he has written a fascinating book about the musical life of this group of players,” the publication states in the unsigned article.

“Interwoven with that is the story of Beethoven’s 16 string quartets, works of extraordinary power written over a quarter-century that moved the genre on from the earlier masters and are now regarded as the apogee of the chamber-music repertoire.” (Read the full article in The Economist.)

Takasce SQ

Tákacs Quartet. Photo by Keith Saunders.

Like most books today, Beethoven for a Later Age has already attracted a number of celebrity blurbs and reviews. For example, pianist Garrick Ohlsson comments, “Dusinberre brilliantly spans Beethoven’s life, works, and the real issues of music making for his contemporaries into our time—via the working process of a great modern quartet living with Beethoven’s creations in the twenty-first century.”

Writing in the The Telegraph, Rupert Christiansen points out that Dusinberre intends to do more than elucidate the music. “Dusinberre’s second, and perhaps more daring, aim is to reveal something of the personal dynamics of the Takács Quartet itself, generally ranked as one of the two or three finest quartets active in the world today,” he writes.

“The glimpse Dusinberre gives us of their working is fascinating, but the alchemy that makes the Takács perform as sublimely as it does remains a mystery.”

# # # # #

25329.books.origjpgBeethoven for a Later Age: The Journey of a String Quartet. By Edward Dusinberre. 232 pages, 14 line drawings. Faber & Faber; £18.99. To be published in America by University of Chicago Press in May; $30. ISBN: 9780226374369; an e-book edition will also be published.

 

 

Takacs Quartet’s Dusinberre on music and health

An article in The Guardian explores a most unusual topic: Life insurance for string quartet players

By Peter Alexander

Takacs.Dusinberre.CUphoto-X2

Edward Dusinberre

Edward Dusinberre, the first violinist of the Takacs Quartet, CU artist-in-residence and Ralph E. and Barbara L. Christoffersen Faculty Fellow at the CU College of Music, writes in The Guardian:

The foundation of a string quartet is formed over a long period of time from the musical and personal bonds that evolve between four individuals. Nonetheless, the decision we took several years ago to purchase life insurance polices for each other felt awkward. Until we became accustomed to our peculiar status as each other’s beneficiaries, minor illnesses were observed with wry attentiveness.

The article gives a peek into the inner workings of one of the world’s most celebrated string quartets, and also serves as teaser for Dusinberre’s book, Beethoven for a Later Age: The Journey of a String Quartet published in England by Faber and Faber and coming later this spring from Chicago University Press in the United States.

Read the entire article in The Guardian.