Chiara combines performance, CD release

Chiara String Quartet, Brahms by Heart
Chiara String Quartet, Brahms by Heart

Chiara combines performance, CD release

calendar icon06 Mar 2014    

On Thursday, March 20 at 7:30pm, the Chiara String Quartet will be performing the final concert of their Hixson-Lied Concert Series 2013-2014 Season at Kimball Recital Hall (11th and R Streets). The concert will celebrate their newest album, Brahms by Heart, due out on March 25, 2014, and include Brahms' String Quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 67, String Quartet in a minor, Op. 51, No. 2, and Sextet in B Flat Major, Op. 18 with violist Clark Potter and cellist Karen Becker. The members of the Chiara String Quartet are the Hixson-Lied Artists-in-Residence at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Glenn Korff School of Music. A CD release party will follow the concert, where advance copies of the CD will be available for purchase.

"We are thrilled to play an all-Brahms concert in celebration of our CD, Brahms By Heart. Since we have been in residence at UNL, the Lincoln community has embraced our performances of Brahms quartets, and we are excited to finally bring recordings of these works to the public. It is only fitting that we welcome our dear UNL colleagues, Karen Becker and Clark Potter, to join us in Brahms' wondrous B-flat sextet."

The Chiara Quartet recorded all of Brahms' String Quartets on Brahms by Heart entirely from memory, without any printed sheet music. It was a tremendous task, but the Quartet feels it has brought the group to a new level of performance and cohesion. After spending countless hours working toward playing from memory, they now see sheet music as a distraction, instead of an aid – so much so that they have made the decision to perform nearly all of their repertoire from memory in concert as well. After memorizing a work, each member of the quartet feels fully present in the moment, truly performing with heart, by heart.

Of the process, the Chiara's cellist Gregory Beaver says, "The act of performing from memory has been challenging for us. Each member must find a way to know the music inside and out. But the payback for each of us is equally rewarding, bringing us that much closer together in our music-making."

The 2-CD set includes Johannes Brahms' String Quartet No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 51 No. 1; String Quartet No. 2 in A Minor, Op. 51 No. 2; String Quartet No. 3 in B-flat Major, Op. 67; and Brahms' String Quintet No. 2 in G Major, Op. 111 with violist Roger Tapping. The album was recorded by Grammy Award-winning producer Judith Sherman at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall in Troy, New York. (Review copies available upon request.) Now in their 14th season performing together, the Chiara String Quartet (Rebecca Fischer and Hyeyung Julie Yoon, violins; Jonah Sirota, viola; Gregory Beaver, cello) is renowned for bringing fresh excitement to traditional string quartet repertoire as well as for creating insightful interpretations of new music and captivating audiences throughout the country. The Chiara has established itself as among America's most respected ensembles, lauded for its "highly virtuosic, edge-of-the-seat playing" (The Boston Globe). They are also Harvard University's Blodgett Artists-in-Residence.

A native of Longview, Washington, Clark Potter began work as the viola professor at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln in 1996, where he serves as Chair of the string area and on the conducting faculty. Mr. Potter is principal viola of the Lincoln Symphony and an active performer as a solo recitalist and chamber musician. Mr. Potter is the director of NEBratsche, the viola ensemble at UNL (for whom he is busy arranging music) and he has conducted the Lincoln Youth Symphony since 2007, including concerts in Rome, Budapest and Vienna. He is also a member of the Nebraska Chamber Players, a founding member of the Trans-Nebraska Players, and he is in demand as an adjudicator and clinician at schools in Nebraska and around the region.

Karen Becker, Associate Professor of Cello at UNL, is an active soloist and avid chamber player, having performed throughout the United States as well as in Europe, Mexico and Puerto Rico. She is faculty artist with the Red Lodge Music Festival and has served as faculty artist with Ameropa Chamber Music Festival in Praque. She has recorded for several PBS documentaries and with several bands, including Bright Eyes. She is a former member of the Omega String Quartet, quartet- in-residence for Lutheran Music Program, and former principal cellist of both the Melkus Ensemble and the International String Orchestra. She tours regularly as a soloist and chamber player and is a member of Trio Nuovo with UNL pianist Mark Clinton and Anton Miller, concertmaster of Lincoln's Symphony Orchestra. In addition to serving on the Glenn Korff School of Music faculty, she is principal cellist of the Lincoln Symphony Orchestra and director of the Lincoln Junior Youth Orchestra.

More about the Chiara Quartet

The Chiara's recent honors include the nomination of its recording of Jefferson Friedman's String Quartet No. 3 for a Grammy Award in 2011 and the ASCAP/Chamber Music America Award for Adventurous Programming for the 2010-2011 season. Past awards include a top prize at the Paolo Borciani International Competition, winning the Astral Artistic Services National Audition, and winning First Prize at the Fischoff Chamber Music Competition. Awarded the Guarneri Quartet Residency Award for artistic excellence by Chamber Music America, the Chiara Quartet has also been the recipient of grants from Meet The Composer, The Aaron Copland Foundation, and the Amphion Foundation.

In addition to the Chiara Quartet's regular performances in major concert halls across the country, including Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall, Carnegie Hall, Philadelphia's Kimmel Center, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the National Gallery in Washington DC, the ensemble was one of the first string quartets to perform in alternative venues for chamber music performance. The Chiara Quartet has performed innovative concerts in non-classical spaces including (le) Poisson Rouge and Galapagos Art Space in New York, The Tractor Tavern in Seattle, Avant Garden in Houston, and the Hideout in Chicago, among many others. Recent highlights of the Chiara Quartet's international performances include extensive tours of China, Korea, and Sweden as well as performances at the American Academy in Rome, the Montreal Chamber Music Festival, and of Steve Reich's Different Trains in Munich.

Described by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer as "vastly talented, vastly resourceful, and vastly committed to the music of their time," the Chiara has commissioned and premiered new works since its inception. In the 2010-11 season the Chiara produced a large-scale project in four cities called Creator/Curator, commissioning new works for string quartet by composers Nico Muhly, Huang Ruo, Daniel Ott and Gabriela Lena Frank. The Chiara has also commissioned works from Jefferson Friedman, Robert Sirota, Hans Tutschku, Michael Wittgraf, and Carl Voss, among others. In April 2011, New Amsterdam Records released the Chiara's recording of composer Jefferson Friedman's String Quartets Nos. 2 and 3 to great critical acclaim. Both celebrated pieces, which "already deserve to be heard as classics of this decade" (The New York Times) were commissioned by the Chiara, and are the result of a more than ten-year friendship with the composer. The New York Times called the Chiara's performances "vital," and the San Francisco Chronicle commented on the Chiara's "lush ensemble sound that brings out the hidden depths of Friedman's harmonic language."

Most recently, the Chiara has recorded a forthcoming album of the complete string quartets of Brahms, entirely from memory. The sessions, with Grammy Award-winning producer Judith Sherman, took place in upstate New York at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall in spring 2012. The complete Chiara discography includes the Mozart and Brahms clarinet quintets with Håkan Rosengren for SMS Classical, and the world premiere recordings of Robert Sirota's Triptych and Gabriela Lena Frank's Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout on the Quartet's own New Voice Singles label.

The Chiara is also featured on Nadia Sirota's debut recording for New Amsterdam Records, first things first, which was included on "Best of" lists in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Time Out New York, and many more. Other recent collaborators of the quartet include The Juilliard String Quartet, Joel Krosnick, Roger Tapping, Todd Palmer, Simone Dinnerstein, Norman Fischer, and Paul Katz, as well as members of the Orion, Ying, Cavani, and Pacifica Quartets.

The Chiara Quartet is widely sought out for its innovative work in engagement with urban and rural communities of all ages throughout the United States. In 2012, the Chiara appeared with the University Musical Society in Ann Arbor, Michigan as residents in the community, performing in unusual venues including a vacant storefront and a Toyota factory. In 2011, the Chiara was the first judge of the online string quartet competition "The Quartet Project Challenge," an opportunity for young quartets from around the world to post performances on YouTube of new works by composer Geoffrey Hudson and receive comments from a professional quartet. In the 2011-12 season, the Chiara presented a four concert series at Matt Talbot Kitchen and Outreach, a unique organization serving the working poor and homeless in Lincoln, Nebraska.

In addition to their residency at Harvard, the Chiara Quartet has been artists-in-residence at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln since 2005. In the summer, they are in residence at Greenwood Music Camp as well as the University of Nebraska- Lincoln's Chamber Music Institute. The Chiara trained and taught at The Juilliard School, mentoring for two years with the Juilliard Quartet, as recipients of the Lisa Arnhold Quartet Residency from 2003-2005.

Chiara (key-ARE-uh) is an Italian word, meaning "clear, pure, or light." More information about the Chiara Quartet can be found online at and on Facebook at Chiara String Quartet .

Tickets: $20 ($10 seniors; $5 students) Available at the Lied Center for Performing Arts ticket office, at the door, or at 402.472.4747. 
More information: Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts.