Tuesday Musical brings string quartet to Akron, Ohio, for concert and community activities

arts / Article

September 29, 2015 by Roger Durbin

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Photo by Sophie Zhai, via Escher String Quartet website.

It was a group of 13 young women who originally created the Tuesday Musical concert series in Akron, Ohio, back in 1887. But it is a group of four young men, the Escher String Quartet, who will kick off its 2015-16 season: Adam Barnett-Hart (violin), Pierre Lapointe (viola), Brook Speltz (cello) and Aaron Boyd (violin) will perform at Akron’s E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall on Sept. 30.

I spoke with Boyd via telephone for a preview of the performance, which he said will include Franz Schubert’s Quartet Movement in C minor; Felix Mendelssohn’s String Quartet No. 4, Op. 44, No. 2; and Alexander von Zemlinsky’s String Quartet No. 2, Op. 15.

In speaking with Boyd, it became clear that he considers the works to be of high quality and musical meaning. Boyd called the Schubert piece, for example, “fascinating.” He added that although it is a short piece that was an opener to a larger work that Schubert never finished, it is also an “announcement of his mastery” of composition–something that would become evident in Schubert’s later chamber music pieces.

For the Mendelssohn work, Boyd used the word “turbulent,” probably alluding, if you have ever heard it, to the pulsing, interlocking musical lines of the string instruments. Combined, they create a great sense of rushing and frenzy.

For the Zemlinsky piece, Boyd reserved the words “epic work.” He noted that Zemlinsky was often overlooked in favor of one of his students, the famous composer Arnold Schoenberg. But Zemlinsky’s second quartet, one of four that the composer wrote, has been called “one of Zemlinsky’s greatest and most radical achievements.” Zemlinksy’s complete string quartets are widely considered among the strongest pieces in Escher String Quartet’s repertoire, so it should be a treat to see and hear a bit of their very best.

Photo by Sophie Zhai, via Escher String Quartet website.

More generally, Escher String Quartet has been lauded for its “profound musical insight and rare tonal beauty.” The group takes its name from M.C. Escher, a famous Dutch graphic artist who used paradoxical elements and somehow made them work together. Boyd said they liked Escher’s work and style. “His art illustrates what happens in great ensembles,” he said.

When asked how the musicians work together, Boyd said most decisions are easy. When there is a musical difference of interpretation among the players, he said they “try and try again” through a “long process to integrate” their efforts. The end result, as he put it, is informed music and thus unique.

Audience members will be able to ask their own questions about the group and its music at the concert. The musicians, Boyd said, always talk to the audience beforehand. In fact, Boyd said that listeners can even see them afterward to ask questions. They “believe strongly” in interacting with the audience, Boyd added.

And pre- or post-concert questions are not the only way that quartet members will connect with the community. Tuesday Musical was dear to Clara Knight, the mother of Knight Foundation’s founders, and Knight continues to support the group by funding its residency program, which invites visiting artists to spend time in Akron working with student ensembles and engaging with the public.

Escher String Quartet is visiting Akron as part of this residency program, and Jarrod Hartzler, Tuesday Musical’s executive director, said via email that Akronites could expect to see the musicians about town. Before the Wednesday performance, the musicians will work on Monday with visual art students at Firestone High School in northwest Akron during the morning, followed at 2 p.m. by a short performance at Rockynol Retirement Community. On Tuesday, they will make an appearance in the City of Wooster near the Akron area, after which they will be at a Boys & Girls Club in Akron during the afternoon. On Wednesday morning, they will present a master class at The University of Akron’s Guzzetta Hall, with their trip culminating in that evening’s concert.  

The Escher String Quartet will perform in concert for Tuesday Musical at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 30 at the E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall. Tickets are $25-$40. Visit the Tuesday Musical website for details.  

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