Chamber Music Cincinnati: Isidore Quartet and Jeremy Denk

If there were an award for the fastest rise in the past decade by a young string quartet after winning a key competition, the Isidore String Quartet would likely win. The quartet was formed in 2019, while its members were still students at New York’s Juilliard School. Following the Covid shutdown, they reconvened under the tutelage of the Julliard String Quartet’s legendary cellist, Joel Krosnick, with additional coaching by the JSQ’s late violist, Roger Tapping, it current cellist, Astrid Schween, Joseph Kalichstein, Misha Amory, Donald Weilerstein, and Miriam Fried, to name but a few.

In 2022, they won the 14th Banff International String Quartet Competition. In January 2023 gave a showcase concert during the annual Chamber Music America conference, where they were heard by an astonished audience that included some of the nation’s leading chamber music presenters. The same year (just last year) the quartet was also awarded the coveted Avery Fisher Career Grant. They have never looked back and barely stopped performing.

The Isidore has appeared on major series in Chicago, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Durham, Washington’s Kennedy Center), San Antonio, Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa, and has collaborated James Ehnes, Jeremy Denk, Shai Wosner, and Jon Nakamatsu, among others.  Their 23/24 season features concerts at Berkeley’s Cal Performances, Boston’s Celebrity Series, Washington’s Phillips Collection, New York’s legendary 92nd St. Y series), and in Ann Arbor, Aspen, Baltimore, Denver, Calgary, Chicago, Edmonton, Houston, Indianapolis, La Jolla, Phoenix, Santa Fe, Tucson, Vancouver, among many others.  European highlights include Edinburgh, Lucerne, Brussels, Amsterdam, Hanover, Frankfurt, and Hamburg.

Jeremy Denk is one of America’s foremost pianists, proclaimed by the New York Times ‘a pianist you want to hear no matter what he performs.’ Denk is winner of both the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship and the Avery Fisher Prize, and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His New York Times best-selling book, Every Good Boy Does Fine, A Love Story in Music, was published in 2022.

Denk returns frequently to Carnegie Hall and in recent seasons has appeared with the Chicago Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, and Cleveland Orchestra, as well as on tour with Academy St. Martin in the Fields, and at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the BBC Proms.

THE PROGRAM

 Only the Brahms is confirmed at the moment. The balance of the program “should” be known by Thursday.

 Bach Contrapuntus, 1-4 /(31:00 – 44:40)

Billy Childs (b. 1957), String Quartet No.2, Awakening (2012, 23:00)

Johannes Brahms (1833-1896), Piano Quintet in F Minor, Op. 34 (1865, 42:00)

The Brahms Piano Quintet has a unique history. It was initially a two-cello string quartet, then a two-piano sonata, then after a total of four years exceptional the work we know today. It is regarded as being at the pinnacle of works for this instrumentation along with those by Dvořák, Fauré, Franck, Schumann and Shostakovich

Chamber Music Cincinnati: Sheku Kanneh-Mason, cello and Isata Kanneh-Mason, piano

Sheku Kanneh-Mason burst onto the world stage when he was seen by 2 billion people performing at the 2018 wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, when he was 19. It wasn’t a fluke.

From age 9, he was a scholarship student at London’s Royal Academy of Music, where five of his six siblings have studied, commuting from their home in Nottingham on weekends.

Sheku has performed at the BBC Proms every year since 2017. In 2020, Sheku was the first cellist ever to have an album reach the UK’s Top Ten. He received an MBE honor for service to music in 2021 (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire).

At 27, Isata Kanneh-Mason is the oldest of the seven Kanneh-Mason siblings. is a graduate of London’s Royal Academy of Music, where her scholarship was supported by Sir Elton John with whom she has performed in concert. Her first Decca album, a celebration of Clara Schumann’s music, debuted at #1 on the UK’s classical music charts in 2019.  Her 2021 duet album with Sheku includes Barber and Rachmaninoff cello sonatas.

Isata has been artist-in-residence with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and in the United States has performed with the Baltimore Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra (February 9 – March 2, 2024), among many others. She made her BBC Proms debut in 2023 playing Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto #3, a moth after releasing her third Decca album.

PROGRAM TBD

Chamber Music Cincinnati: Cuarteto Casals

“No other quartet can match this group’s four-voiced marriage…” – The Independent (London)

“There’s something so immediate about the superb Casals Quartet’s playing…” – Gramophone

There are a handful of superb European quartets that don’t spend enough time in America, sometimes because they perform so regularly in Europe or because they prefer not being away from family. Founded in 1997, the Madrid based Quarteto Casals quickly won the London and Brahms-Hamburg quartet competitions. For more than a quarter century they have performed at Europe’s foremost concert halls, the Berlin Philharmonie, bothe Vienna’s Konzerthaus and Musikverien, and Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, as well as Tokyo’s Suntory Hall and New York’s Carnegie Hall.

Gramophone named the Casals’s most recent Mozart recording one of the Best Albums of 2021, one of the 50 finest Mozart recordings in history, and its recording of choice of his Quartet No. 19, “Dissonance.” We are thrilled to finally have Quarteto Casals perform in Cincinnati.

THE PROGRAM

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)                Quartet in D Major, K. 499 “Hoffmeister” (1786, 26 minutes)

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)                              Quartet No. 2 in A Major, Op. 68 (1944, 36 minutes)

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)                         Quartet No. 15 in a Minor, Op. 132 (1823-25, 45 minutes)

Unlike Mozart’s famous quartet sets―like his six “Haydn” or three “Prussian” string quartets―Mozart’s “Hoffmeister” stands alone. One of his “true greats, it is a prime example of the composer’s extraordinary ability to interweave exuberance and seriousness.

Shostakovich’s second string quartet was written more than 20 years after he entered the Petrograd Conservatory and six years after he wrote the first of what were intended to be 24 quartets in all 24 major and minor keys. The fifteen he completed are regarded by many as among the most remarkable achievements for this instrumentation after Beethoven’s string quartets. Their intimate character is often contrasted by critics and musicologists with that of the 15 Shostakovich symphonies, spectacles written for public consumption, sometimes reflecting historical events. Russia’s Beethoven Quartet premiered all but the first and last. The Glauzunov Quartet premiered the first in 1936.

Beethoven’s Op. 132 was the 13th of his quartets written and the 15th to be published, part of his Late Quartets, now regarded as the greatest achievement of this instrumentation. It was originally intended to have four movements, but the composer because seriously ill during it composition. Once recovered, Beethoven added a fifth movement, third in order, in gratitude for his recovery titled A Convalescent’s Holy Song of Thanksgiving to the Deity, in the Lydian Mode.

 

Chamber Music Cincinnati: Jerusalem Quartet

“Passion, precision, warmth, a gold blend: these are the trademarks of this excellent Israeli string quartet.” – The Times, London

“Their Playing Has Everything You Could Possibly Wish For.” – BBC Music Magazine

Since the Jerusalem String Quartet’s debut in 1996, these four Israeli musicians have been on a remarkable journey of growth and maturation, resulting in a wide repertoire and stunning depth of expression, finding its core in a warm, full, human sound and an egalitarian balance between high and low voices.

Highlights of the upcoming 2023/2024 season include tours of Sweden, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland; and appearances in the quartet Biennales in Paris, Lisbon, and Amsterdam. Alongside the quartet’s regular programs, they will bring back the “Yiddish Cabaret”, and will perform a Bartok Cycle in the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg. Their upcoming North American tours include concerts in Montreal, Pittsburgh, Providence, Portland (Maine), Houston, Tucson, Palm Beach, Miami, New Orleans, Denver, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York, and other locations. In Ann Arbor, they will be joined by pianist Inon Barnaton.

 

THE PROGRAM

Joseph Haydn: Quartet in Bb-Major, Op 50, No. 1 (“Prussian”), 1787, 24 minutes / Ask Op. 76

Dmitri Shostakovich: Quartet No. 15 in E Flat Minor, Op. 144 (1974, 35 minutes) / OR Quartet No. 12, OP. 133

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Quartet No. 19 in C-Major, K. 465 “Dissonance” (1785, 32 minutes)

As noted above, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven all wrote works in related “sets,” including the “Sun,” “Haydn,” and “Razumovsky” string quartets, respectively, most given their nicknames by people other than the composers for a variety of reasons. Haydn, “Father of the String Quartet, wrote 68, three times more than as Mozart and four times  Beethoven, so he was able to create many more sets.  His Op. 20 “Sun,” Op. 33 “Russian”, Op. 50 “Prussian,” and Op. 76 “Erdoddy,” all with six quartets each, are the most highly regarded. (the King of Prussia.)

The Op. 50 set was dedicated to King Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia, an amateur cellist. No. 1 in B Flat gives the cello moments to shine, but not too terribly difficult. The cello even opens the piece alone.

For many, the fifteen string quartets by Dmitri Shostakovich represent a cycle of artistic devotion and intense, intimate expression second only to the sixteen quartets by Beethoven. For Shostakovich, the quartets provided a refuge from the more public and highly scrutinized genres of opera, symphony, ballet or film score where a negative judgment by totalitarian [Soviet] authorities threatened real and serious danger…Here, he could express himself more naturally and honestly and as with late Beethoven, the music is often deeply personal, introspective, and vividly autobiographical.

Shostakovich was also a great classicist, drawn to the preludes and fugues of Bach and the transcendent quartets of Beethoven and he strove to make his contribution in these august musical traditions. He planned to compose a set of twenty-four string quartets, one in each major and minor key, but he ran out of time. Dying of an aggressive cancer, and frequently hospitalized, Shostakovich completed his 15th and last string quartet at the age of 68 in 1974, less than a year before he died.

The 15th String Quartet is one of the most intense in the history of the genre, unique in its construction and dramatic affect. While it shares many qualities with other Shostakovich quartets and does not represent any necessarily radical departure, it is nonetheless singular for its unrelenting darkness. The quartet comprises six adagios all in the key of e-flat minor, played without pause in a seamless continuum of profound gloom. With such movement titles as Elegy and Funeral March, it is bleakly clear what Shostakovich seeks to express.

– Kai Christiansen via Earsense

Mozart’s Quartet No. 19 is sixth and last in a set completed in early 1785 and dedicated to Haydn. Haydn had published his milestone Op. 33 quartets just three years before. The title “Dissonance” comes from a lack of harmony early in the first movement. His publisher is said to have returned the score to Mozart, imagining that there were mistakes. On hearing it, a Count called his musicians incompetent. Haydn famously said, “If Mozart wrote it, he must have meant it.”

Gramophone ranks the “Dissonance” as being among the Top 10 String Quartets ever.

Chamber Music Cincinnati: Takacs Quartet

Their sound draws you in from the first moment.- Gramophone

The Takacs Quartet is both a Gramophone and Grammy winner and the first ensemble named to the Gramophone Hall of Fame. It is one of five legendary groups remaining active among the “Greatest String Quartets of All Time,” chosen in January 2022 by the BBC Classical Music Magazine, the largest circulation publication dedicated to the genre. It said in a review later that year, “…you will not hear better string quartet playing anywhere in the world today.” These accolades followed the Takacs being hailed by the New York Times as “one of the world’s greatest string quartets.”

That the Takacs reached this peak was not no surprise to many classical music lovers. Founded in 1975 at Budapest’s Franz Liszt Academy, they enraptured audiences almost from the start. By 1981, the quartet had won five major European competitions. They made their U.S. debut the following year and in 1983 became resident at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Their 2020 recording with Garrick Ohlsson of the Beach and Elgar quintets won a Gramophone Award.

Program

  • Joseph Haydn (1732-1809), String Quartet in C Major, Op. 20 “Sun,” No. 2 (1772, 19:30)
  • Leos Janacek (1854-1928), String Quartet No. 1, “Kreutzer Sonata” (1923, 18:00)
  • Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), String Quartet in F Major, Op. 59 “Razumovsky,” No.1 (1806, 39:00)

The program contains groundbreaking quartets by Haydn and Beethoven. Haydn’s Op. 20 is from at set of six titled “Sun” in which Haydn established the string quartet form that held for 200 years.

Beethoven’s Op. 59, No. 1 is from a set of three that broke the mold that Haydn created. It was the beginning of his “middle period” and the start of a unmatched creative evolution that ended with the greatest quartets ever written.

Janacek’s “Kreutzer” Quartet was inspired by Leo Tolstoy’s novella, The Kreutzer Sonata, which was named for Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 9, dedicated by the composer to violinist Rudloph Kreutzer a falling out with the original dedicatee, violinist George Bridgetower.

Chamber Music Cincinnati: Randall Goosby

“…never sounds knowing or contrived: more like an artist speaking eloquently in his own voice…” – Gramophone

“…secure technique, natural phrasing, gorgeous tone and smart programming. Randall Goosby has everything…” NPR

Randall Goosby

Sunday, April 7, 2024 – 4:00 p.m. Corinthian Baptist church

Tuesday, April 9, 2024 – 7:30 p.m. Memorial Hall

  • Goosby made his symphony debut on violin at 9. He was the youngest winner of the Sphinx concerto competition at 13.
  • An Itzhak Perlman protégé and now a leading artist of his generation.
  • His January 2023 Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra performance of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto drew one of the CSO’s largest audiences this season and, along with Michelle Cann’s December performance, the most enthusiastic audience response.
  • He Performs on the 1735 ‘Sennhauser’ Guarneri del Gesù.
  • His debut album, Roots, is a Gramophone Editor’s Choice and an Amazon Choice.

Chamber Music Cincinnati: Imani Winds

“If it’s possible for a classically trained wind quintet to rock the house, Imani Winds blows the roof off.” – NPR

“Each member is a virtuoso…dazzling ensemble playing” – Washington Post

Imani Winds

Sunday, March 10, 2024, 4:00 p.m. New Prospect Baptist Church
Tuesday, March 12, 2024, 7:30 p.m. Memorial Hall

Grammy-nominated wind quintet Imani Winds, recently-named faculty at the Curtis Institute of Music, returns for the third time. Founded in 1997, the ensemble has given rise to noteworthy instrumentalists and composers, including Valerie Coleman and Jeff Scott. This performance will include Scott’s profoundly moving Fallen Petals of Nameless Flowers, a 2022 commission from Chamber Music Detroit. Why two great wind ensembles in the same season? They are excitingly different. Come and compare.