Chamber Music Abounds and Myra’s BISQC Surveillance is Underway

ON THE HORIZON (by Liz Friedman)—Before we revel in the luscious sounds of the orchestra provided by the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood and the Philadelphia Orchestra at SPAC, we want to be sure to highlight the upcoming chamber music that abounds within the greater HudsonSounds region.

The Cooperstown Summer Music Festival is well underway.

The Luzerne Music Center is now a hub of chamber music, and the Fellows at Tanglewood showcase their talents in numerous concerts for those who are looking for more.

Thursday, the Summerland Music Society opens its season with a program of Bach, Fauré, Vivier, and Jopin. There is also a sprinkling of chamber music concerts to be found at the Clark Museum.

For early music lovers, take note that the Aston Magna Festival wraps up its season with an interesting program with music from the Library of Thomas Jefferson (Thursday through Saturday).

SIREN Baroque

SIREN Baroque

The emerging talent of Siren Baroque can be found presenting a program this Saturday in West Shokan with light and spirited vocal and instrumental summery songs of Vivaldi, Purcell and Handel.

The Marlboro Music Festival artists opens its 63rd season this weekend.

And of particular note is a much anticipated concert with the Miró String Quartet’s Tannery Pond debut appearance on Saturday, July 27.

For those of you who may not be traveling to the north to visit our wet neighbors in Alberta, Canada (it seems that none of us are escaping the trials of this year’s wetness), do not fret that you’ll miss the the Olympian journey to the final round of the Banff International String Quartet Competition (BISQC). Myra Herron, once again, will be providing us with daily reports from BISQC at the end of August. We will delightfully and vicariously follow the string quartets’ progress through Myra’s artful  writings.

Myra’s surveillance is underway … and is highlighted below in case you missed her post last week.  Enjoy!!!


Banff International String Quartet Competition August 2013:  Surveillance Underway

by MYRA HERRON—A drumbeat of excitement is building for an Olympian showdown of ten string quartets that made the cut for the 2013 Banff International String Quartet Competition. Also known as BISQC, this diminutive keenly understates its prestigious place in the schematic of classical music.

BISQC Canadian RockiesHeld at the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada; this triennial competition that started in 1983 begins its second tri-decade during the week Aug 26th to Sept 1st 2013. The inaugural first-prize winner was the Colorado Quartet (USA), now resident at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson in New York State. Such winners are prominent on the international music scene and have significantly influenced our own regional venues.

Presenters such as Friends of Chamber Music Troy (FoCM), Union College Concerts, Maverick Concerts, South Mountain and Bard have featured the following winners and placers from the BISQC: Colorado, Lark, Cavani, Ying, St Lawrence, Amernet, Miro, Daedalus, Jupiter, Fry Street, and most recently, the Cecilia String Quartet.

For the upcoming 2013 Banff International String Quartet Competition, the following ten quartets have made it to the four-round semifinals that takes place over five days and a fifth final round that yields a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winner.

I am forced to borrow from sports’ “speak” and say…. The lineup is sweet. It features built in intrigue, including :

    • a previous dropout quartet,
    • try again quartets;
    • a return ensemble featured in the movie A Late Quartet
    • a Russia/China quartet,
    • four (!!) quartets representing USA or USA/Canada,
    • a quartet with 3 members whose family name is Schumann.

And just for that, here is the list in reverse alphabetical order:

    • Schumann Quartet (Germany)
    • Navarra Quartet (UK/ Ireland/ The Netherlands)
    • Noga Quartet (France/Israel)
    • Linden String Quartet (USA/Canada)
    • Gemeux Quartett (Switzerland)
    • Dover Quartet (USA)
    • Quatuor Cavatine (France)
    • Calidore String Quartet (USA/Canada)
    • Attacca Quartet (USA)
    • Anima Quartet (Russia/China)

This entry requirement may interest you, or not:

All applicants must be under 35 as of September 2013

The body collective—audience, jury, quartets—assemble for 3 sessions a day:

  • 10:00 am to 12:30 pm
  • then 2:00 pm to 4:30 pm
  • followed by 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm

They achieve 14 two-and-a-half hour recitals in five rounds!

That adds up to a delicious 43 hours of listening, not including daily lectures and the Alumni Concert … concert 15!

At any other time, the magnificent Canadian Rockies would not be called a distraction. But truancy exists and the assigned seats are sometimes conspicuously empty. Emerald hued Lake Louise, surrounded by glaciers and much more beg to be more than scenery. But, be assured, my heart belongs to Beethoven, Haydn and the string quartet literature. I will not let you down. I never miss a note. You can count on me to keep you informed as things press ahead.

BISQC Judges

The attending audience is mostly resident and notoriously opinionated… not that the esteemed judges are moved in any way by that. They are an entity unto themselves with whom communication is discouraged. The task is grueling hand to hand—well really hand to instrument—combat for participants.

The first prize winner in 2010, Cecilia Quartet, performed for Friends of Chamber Music at Kiggins Hall on the Emma Willard School Campus, and I told them how much fun we had hearing them every day for a week. The immediate reply was, “fun, most certainly, did not describe that week for us.” It was a fight to the finish… and will be again…. a battle Royal. That would be the appropriate description considering the sponsor is Royal Bank of Canada.

Apparently, however, some didn’t get enough. Noga Quartet and Attacca Quartet are coming back for more. From my point of view, the Atttacca String Quartet had a rather bruising battle in 2004. But this time I am putting some stars beside their name. Representing the USA, they formerly listed residence in Saratoga Springs, NY. Presently they hold the position Juilliard Graduate Resident String Quartet and are based in New York City. In 2011 they took first prize at the Osaka International String Quartet Competition. They also have a cinema credit, appearing in A Late Quartet in a vignette with Christopher Walken.*

Each of the ten quartets, however, are well commended for this competition. All bios and even video interviews are available at BISQC’s website. There is a lot to be informed of and many stellar participants. Among the jurists are these names you will recognize: Kikuei Ikeda (Tokyo), Andras Fejer (Takacs), Roger Tapping (formerly Takacs), Nicolas Kitchen (Borromeo). Scott St John (St Lawrence), to name a few.

For more coverage, stay tuned to I’ll be keeping you informed as things press ahead.

* (editor’s note:  for more of Myra’s insights on A Late Quartet, click here)

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