Ulysses Quartet with Sam Suggs and Orion Weiss

Mount Gretna, PA, United States

Mt. Gretna Playhouse

3:00 PM
$5-$30 This concert is open seating by section. Premium Section is the first 10 rows. Standard Section is rows 11-19.

"They project that avid enthusiasm we critics immediately fall for”

Grand prize and gold medal winner at the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, the Ulysses Quartet has been praised by The Strad for possessing “the kind of chemistry many quartets long for, but rarely achieve.” At Juilliard, they served as the School’s Graduate Resident String Quartet through May 2022. This all-Schubert season finale features the composer’s monumental final string quartet, and his youthful, ever-popular Trout Quintet.

The Quartet

Canadian violinist, Christina Bouey, is hailed by the New York Times for playing “beautifully,” by the New York Post, “When violinist Christina Bouey spun out that shimmering tune, I thought I died and went to heaven,” and by Opera News, for playing “with exquisite, quivering beauty.” Her recent prizes include 1st Prize at the Schoenfeld International String Competition in the chamber division, Grand Prize at the Fischoff Competition, 1st place in the American Prize, and 2nd prize at the Osaka International Chamber Competition. Among her other top awards include the Hugo Kortchak Award for outstanding achievement in chamber music, Heida Hermann International, Canadian National Music Festival, Queens Concerto Competition, and the Balsam Duo Competition. Christina has performed as soloist with the Greenwich Symphony, Cayuga Chamber Orchestra, Salina Symphony, River Cities Symphony, Symphony of the Mountains, Tonkünstler Ensemble, Metro Chamber Orchestra, Bergen Symphony, Prince Edward Island Symphony, Banff Orchestra, Shattered Glass and the Hemenway Strings. Her solo and chamber credits include Carnegie Hall, Esterházy Palace, Taiwan National Recital Hall, Harbin Grand Theatre, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Schneider Series, Rockefeller Tri-I Noon Series, Dame Myra Hess series, La Jolla Summer Fest, Premiere Performances Hong Kong, Vietnam Connection Music Festival, Kneisel Hall Festival, Emilia Romagna Festival, Harvard Club of New York, Montreal Chamber Festival, Debut Atlantic, Kansas International Music Festival, L’Archet Concert Group and the Indian River Festival. She has also been featured on WQXR New York. Christina has collaborated with artists such as David Chan, Jeremy Denk, Paul Coletti, Lynn Chang, Robert DeMaine, Steven Doane, Rosemary Elliott, David Geber, Clive Greensmith, Toby Hoffman, Chee-Yun Kim, Yura Lee, Cho-Liang Lin, and Bright Sheng.

Christina graduated from Manhattan School of Music (2013) with a Professional Studies Certificate in Orchestral Performance, studying with Glenn Dicterow and Lisa Kim as a full scholarship student, (2012) with a Professional Studies Certificate, studying with Laurie Smukler, and in 2011 she received a Master of Music, while studying with Nicholas Mann. Her Bachelor of Music (Magnum cum laude) is from The Boston Conservatory; where she studied with Irina Muresanu as a full-scholarship student.

In June 2014, as part of the 150 year celebrations on PEI, professional dancers from Ballet Jazz de Montreal performed a modern dance to her first compositional commission for solo violin, with Christina playing it on the violin. Christina is currently serving as concertmaster of the Cayuga Chamber Orchestra, is a member/founder of the Ulysses String Quartet, and plays in a duo with pianist Tatiana Tessman. She plays an 1820 Pressenda on generous loan from the Canada Council Instrument Bank. To keep up to date with Christina, you can follow her website: www.christinabouey.com.

Violinist Rhiannon Banerdt made her solo debut at age 14 with the New England Symphonic Ensemble in Johannesburg, South Africa. She has since made solo and chamber music appearances at Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center, New York’s Weill Hall at Carnegie, and Boston’s Jordan Hall, among others, with performances hailed by Edith Eisler of Strings Magazine as “real music-making–concentrated and deeply felt”. Ms. Banerdt performs regularly throughout New England with a variety of ensembles and is a founding member of the Ulysses String Quartet, winners of the First Prize at the 2018 Schoenfeld International Chamber Music Competition, Grand Prize at the 2016 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, First Prize at the 2017 American Prize Chamber Ensemble, and Silver Medal at the 2017 Osaka International Chamber Music Competition.

A recipient of the 2012 Borromeo String Quartet Guest Artist Award, Ms. Banerdt was invited to perform with the quartet in Jordan Hall. Other collaborations have included performances with the Chiara Quartet, Kim Kashkashian, Paul Biss, and Frans Helmerson. Ms. Banerdt has participated in numerous eminent chamber music festivals including La Jolla Summerfest, Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute, Kneisel Hall Chamber Music Festival, Taos School of Music, and the Castleman Quartet Program.

Ms. Banerdt holds the position of Assistant Concertmaster with the Cape Symphony and has served as Principal Second Violin Boston’s Discovery Ensemble. She was one of two Violin Fellowships for the 2013-2015 seasons with the flagship music education organization Community MusicWorks in Providence, RI, where she taught individual lessons and group classes for disadvantaged youth and performed regularly with the Fellowship Quartet and Community MusicWorks Players. Ms. Banerdt is currently a member of the violin faculty at the Bloomingdale School of Music on New York City’s Upper West Side and a Graduate Teaching Fellow at CUNY Brooklyn College.

A native of Los Angeles, Ms. Banerdt attended the New England Conservatory, where she received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees with honors from the New England Conservatory of Music as a student of Lucy Chapman and Paul Biss, and is currently pursuing doctoral studies at The CUNY Graduate Center studying with Mark Steinberg.

Praised as “master of the strong lines”, concert violist Colin Brookes is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he made his solo debut with the Pittsburgh Symphony at the age of 17. A founding member of the award-winning Ulysses Quartet, Colin has taught in the Pre-College Division of the Juilliard School, and the undergraduate programs of Yale University and SUNY Stony Brook.

Colin performs regularly with The Knights, A Far Cry, and other critically acclaimed ensembles. Festival appearances include Kneisel Hall, Geneva Music Festival, Manchester Summer Chamber Music, and Tanglewood. In June 2013 he gave a solo recital with pianist Euntaek Kim for the St. Gaudens Concert Series in Cornish, NH.

Traveling and performing allow for many unexpected opportunities to capture moments in time. An interest that evolved recently into a passion, film photography has profoundly changed Colin’s appreciation for perspective and awareness.

Colin holds a Bachelor of Music from the Juilliard School and a Master of Music and Artist Diploma from Yale University. His mentors include Ettore Causa, Heidi Castleman, Misha Amory, Nicholas Cords, Larry Dutton, Marylene Gingras-Roy, Roger Chase, Jeffrey Irvine, and Carolyn Hills. He currently plays a 19th-century Italian viola generously on loan from Maestro Foundation, and an English Thomas Tubbs bow, circa 1845 .

Grace Ho, cello, Taiwanese-American cellist Grace Ho is an active cello soloist and chamber musician in the United States and Asia. Ms. Ho has appeared as a soloist with orchestras including the Xiamen Philharmonic Orchestra, Evergreen Symphony Orchestra, Vietnam National Symphony Orchestra, Ho Chi Minh City Symphony Orchestra, Sun Taipei Philharmonic, Vienna Ensemble, Lewisville Lake Symphony Orchestra, Manhattan School of Music Philharmonic Orchestra, Kansas Wesleyan Orchestra, and University of North Texas Chamber Orchestra.

Ms. Ho has achieved numerous awards including First Prize in the Manhattan School of Music Eisenberg-Fried Concerto Competition, winner in the University of North Texas Concerto Competition, and Silver Medal in the Crescendo Music Awards. Ms. Ho has performed in prestigious concert halls such as Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium, Weill Recital Hall, and Zankel Hall, Meyerson Symphony Center, Taiwan National Concert and Recital Halls, and the Opera Houses in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City as the soloist in the 2018 Toyota Tour in Vietnam.

Ms. Ho is a founding member of the Ulysses Quartet, and the guest principal cellist of the Miami Symphony Orchestra.

Ms. Ho has participated in numerous festivals include Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, ENCORE School for Strings, Boston University Tanglewood Institute, Manchester Music Festival, Texas Music Festival, International Festival Institute at Round Top, and Teaching Assistant at Manhattan in the Mountains in 2013.

Ms. Ho received her Doctor of Musical Arts and Master of Music from the Manhattan School of Music, and her Bachelor of Music from the University of North Texas with full scholarships,  and graduating with the Pablo Casals Award from her Master’s Degree. Former teachers include David Geber, Clive Greensmith, Eugene Osadchy, Chao-Fu Lin, Shih-San Lin, Tze-Ming Chen, and Shih-Hui Ho. You can check out Grace’s website here: www.gracehocello.com.

Sam

Sam Suggs, bass, Sam is the first solo bassist in 36 years to join the Concert Artists Guild roster, and was recently recognized with an award for Extraordinary Creativity at the 2017 Bradetich Foundation International Double Bass Competition.

A paradigm-shifting bassist-composer, Sam was named ‘New Artist of the Month’ (October 2015) by Musical America after winning 1st place at the 2015 International Society of Bassists Solo Competition while performing many original works.

As a collaborative bassist, he has performed at the Mostly Mozart Festival, Yellow Barn, Chamber Music Northwest, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and with the Argus Quartet, PUBLIQuartet, Founders, Frisson Ensemble (composer-in-residence), and his contemporary jazz trio Triplepoint.

A native of Buffalo, NY and doctoral candidate at the Yale School of Music, Sam spends his time between the Northeast and the Shenandoah Valley performing with various chamber, crossover, and contemporary groups, giving recitals and masterclasses, and teaching full-time as Assistant Professor of Bass at James Madison University, as well as at the Heifetz Institute, Peabody Bass Works, Sewanee Summer Music Festival, and the Juilliard Summer Strings Program in Shanghai.

Orion

Orion Wiess, piano, One of the most sought-after soloists in his generation of young American musicians, the pianist Orion Weiss has performed with the major American orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony, Boston Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and New York Philharmonic. His deeply felt and exceptionally crafted performances go far beyond his technical mastery and have won him worldwide acclaim. With a warmth to his playing that reflects his personality, Orion has performed with dozens of orchestras in North America and has dazzled audiences with his passionate, lush sound.

Recent seasons have seen Weiss in performances for the Lucerne Festival, the Denver Friends of Chamber Music, the University of Iowa, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center’s Fortas Series, the 92nd Street Y, and the Broad Stage, and at Aspen, Bard, and Grand Teton summer festivals. Other highlights include his third performance with the Chicago Symphony, a performance of Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the release of his recording of Christopher Rouse’s Seeing, and recordings of the complete Gershwin works for piano and orchestra with his longtime collaborators the Buffalo Philharmonic and JoAnn Falletta.

Named the Classical Recording Foundation’s Young Artist of the Year in September 2010, in the summer of 2011 Weiss made his debut with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood as a last-minute replacement for Leon Fleisher. In recent seasons, he has also performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, National Arts Centre Orchestra, and Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and in duo summer concerts with the New York Philharmonic at both Lincoln Center and the Bravo! Vail Valley Festival. In 2005, he toured Israel with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Itzhak Perlman.

Also known for his affinity and enthusiasm for chamber music, Weiss performs regularly with the violinists Augustin Hadelich, William Hagen, Benjamin Beilman, James Ehnes, and Arnaud Sussman; the pianist Shai Wosner; the cellist Julie Albers; and the Ariel, Parker, and Pacifica Quartets. As a recitalist and chamber musician, Weiss has appeared across the U.S. at venues and festivals including Lincoln Center, the Ravinia Festival, Sheldon Concert Hall, the Seattle Chamber Music Festival, La Jolla Music Society SummerFest, Chamber Music Northwest, the Bard Music Festival, the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival, the Kennedy Center, and Spivey Hall.  He won the 2005 William Petschek Recital Award at Juilliard and made his New York recital debut at Alice Tully Hall that April. Also in 2005, he made his European debut in a recital at the Musée du Louvre in Paris. He was a member of the Chamber Music Society Two program of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center from 2002-2004, which included his appearance in the opening concert of the Society’s 2002-2003 season at Alice Tully Hall performing Ravel’s La Valse with Shai Wosner.

Weiss’s impressive list of awards includes the Gilmore Young Artist Award, an Avery Fisher Career Grant, the Gina Bachauer Scholarship at the Juilliard School, and the Mieczyslaw Munz Scholarship. A native of Lyndhurst, OH, Weiss attended the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he studied with Paul Schenly, Daniel Shapiro, Sergei Babayan, Kathryn Brown, and Edith Reed. In February of 1999, Weiss made his Cleveland Orchestra debut performing Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1. In March 1999, with less than 24 hours’ notice, Weiss stepped in to replace André Watts for a performance of Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. He was immediately invited to return to the Orchestra for a performance of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto in October 1999. In 2004, he graduated from the Juilliard School, where he studied with Emanuel Ax.

 

Program

Schubert, String Quartet in G Major, D. 887
Schubert, Piano Quintet in A Major, D. 667, ‘Trout’

Franz Schubert, String Quartet in G Major, D. 887

It has often been observed that the cultural life of Vienna, post-Napoleon, seemed split, or at least pulled between two extremes, one serious and inward-searching, the other disposed toward indulging in frivolity and pleasure seeking. After years of brutal war this can hardly be surprising: the competing needs for innocent escape post-horror, and soulful reflection upon it, can make of two minds any man or culture. Still, in the case of life in Austria’s capital after the Congress of Vienna, the extent of spiritual rift is striking, musically speaking manifesting itself in a craze on the one hand for the charming, but on the whole wading-pool deep operatic comedies by the likes of Rossini, and on the other a respect, soon to bloom to reverence, for Beethoven’s truth-questing quartets, sonatas, and symphonies. There was one composer, however, able to bridge the gulf, to write with one artistic foot on each side of Vienna’s cultural split, though from his obscurity at the time, almost no one knew it. This gifted, late-recognized chap – the single major Viennese composer actually native to the city – was Franz Schubert.

By songs alone one could illustrate Schubert’s equal flair for sonically evoking light and dark, life and death, earth and air (is there a wider emotional gamut anywhere in music, for instance, than that described by lieder like Der Tod und das Madchen on the one hand, and on the other, say Heidenroslein, or Der Alpenjager?). Beyond the songs, however, Schubert wrote many large-scale pieces that need no foils, but by themselves cast equal portions light and shadow. Foremost among these is the String Quartet in G Major, D. 887 (1826), the composer’s final effort in the medium.

From its initial bars, which radically alternate major and minor chords—tropes respectively for light and life, and for the grave – this work declares it is of two worlds. Such major-minor interplay is a favorite technique of Schubert, but nowhere else  in his music (and perhaps not in the music of any other till the time of Mahler) are the two modes juxtaposed so nakedly, and so startlingly. Chiaroscuro chordal shadings persist throughout the rest of the opening Allegro molto moderato too, where surprising tonal shifts supply a kaleidoscopic framework of harmonic colors that constantly coax fresh and stunning aspects from the movement’s melodies. The Andante un poco moto that ensues persists in – even amplifies – this tempestuous ‘music of two minds,’ one critic, drawing a Shakespearean analogy, insisting it seems sometimes to be a Caliban, sometimes an Ariel, musically embodied.

And if the major-minor twists and turns of the work’s opening seemed extravagant, much more so are the harmonies in this movement; one near-polytonal purple patch has the low strings sliding through a succession of far-flung keys, while the instruments above stay doggedly in g!

The subsequent Scherzo: Allegro vivace is simpler than the preceding movements chordally yet maintains their convincingly split personality by impetuously ranging dynamics. The trio of this scherzo, though, is almost wholly calm; a simple Landler (an Austrian peasant’s dance, and forerunner of the waltz), it comes as a brief but welcome respite from the volatile scherzo proper. This fleeting trio aside, however, if there is a section of the G Major Quartet that, beginning to end, plays clear favorites between shadings, it is the work’s Allegro assai finale, a breathless tarantella that stays throughout emphatically merry. Many critics, finding this movement’s unabashed, frolicsome joy too frivolous after the exalted heights, wrenching shifts, and tragic depths of what has come before, have deemed it the least compelling portion the work. Still one hardly feels obliged to quarrel with it over-much after three movements of epic twists from bright to dark, and dark to bright – all Schubertian and Viennese dualities aside – it is good to come out in the end, firmly footed in the light.

Franz Schubert, Piano Quintet in A Major, D. 667, ‘Trout’

If you got all the world’s music professors in a room and made them fight it out over which was the best of Franz Schubert’s chamber works,

you’d not most likely witness a combat that future Homers would invoke too many Muses’ help to sing about. But you’d get a spirited debate, and while there might be doubt over whether partisans of the string quintet, or perhaps the late G Major or the d minor quartet, would be victorious, one thing is for certain: those few who’d back the ‘Trout’ Quintet (1819) would end up in the place of Priam’s Trojans.

That said, it doesn’t take the judgment of Paris to know the ‘Trout’ is Schubert’s most beloved chamber effort. And it is epically better than its model, J.N. Hummel’s tepid E-flat Major venture, Op. 87. This long forgotten piece is what a group of amateur musicians in the Austrian town of Steyr had been working on when Schubert arrived on the scene, intending a vacation. The leader of the dilettantes, a wealthy patron of the arts named Sylvester Paumgartner, had heard some of Schubert’s lieder, including Die Forelle (‘The Trout’), and had the inspired idea of requesting a quintet along the lines of Hummel’s – that is, for the peculiar combination of violin, viola, cello, bass, and piano – and to include a set of variations on the tune of Die Forelle.

Schubert responded with a work that, written as hausmusik to please accomplished amateurs, is understandably somewhat serenade-like, lacking great profundity, but that makes up for missing depth by positively sparkling to the finish, right from the piano’s opening flourish, which heads a movement that is never less than lyrical and light, although it’s far the longest and the most dramatic of the Quintet’s five.

The gentleness of the ensuing Andante stands not so much in contrast, but in graceful compliment to the first movement’s aforementioned dramatic bent, both sections showing why the ‘Trout’, for its unswerving translucency of texture, is unique in all the literature of Romantic Era quintets with piano. And while the Scherzo opens with a boisterous little fit, this is humorous, no way aggressive, and soon gives way to a trio of rustic charm and innocence.

Herr Paumgartner’s request for a set of Forelle variations, and Schubert’s compliance, lends the work a still more relaxed and serenade-ish air.  The first three variations, in which the familiar ‘Trout’ theme is heard in ever lower voices but stays essentially the same, show its composer’s gift of varying accompaniment, unrivaled in the history of music.  Only in the fourth variation is the theme transformed before, in a final ‘variation’, it returns intact, for the first time escorted by the rippling triplet figures that had been its partner in the song, and which no doubt the quintet’s patron would have eagerly awaited all along.

A vaguely gypsy air pervades the final Allegro giusto, as it does in many of Schubert’s concluding movements. And while several critics have nitpicked here and elsewhere that the contrabass seems out of place (like “a whale had somehow got into the trout’s pool” in the words of one sourpuss with too-keen ears!), their complaints are no more significant than that of any would-be Achilles with a DMA insisting that our ‘Trout’ lacks the gravity of, say, the ‘Death and the Maiden’ Quartet. They’re right, and so would win the fight, of course, but Grace forbid that every work need be an Iliad!

Notes by Carl Kane

 

Venue Details

200 Pennsylvania Avenue
Mount Gretna, PA 17064
United States
(717) 361-1508