Verona Quartet wins second prize and ProQuartet-CEMC Price at the 2015 Wigmore Hall International String Quartet Competition

Verona Quartet FBWe are pleased to announce that the Verona Quartet (formerly known as the Wasmuth Quartet), IU Jacobs School of Music’s Graduate String Quartet-in-Residence, has won Second Prize and the ProQuartet-CEMC Prize at the 2015 Wigmore Hall (formerly the London) International String Quartet Competition.

Hailed by critics as “thoughtful, impressive musicians” (Cleveland Classical), the Verona Quartet has won numerous accolades and awards, and is quickly establishing themselves as one of the exciting young quartets on the music scene today. Within months of their formation, they received 1st prize at the Kuttner String Quartet Competition and won the Silver Medal in the senior division of the 2013 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition. They went on to win the Grand Prize at the 2014 Coleman Chamber Music Competition and the First Place and Audience Choice Award at the 2014 Chesapeake International Chamber Music Competition. In May 2014, the Verona Quartet won the Bronze Medal at the 8th Osaka International Chamber Music Competition in Osaka, Japan, where critics lauded their “sensational, powerhouse performance” (Classical Voice America).

The Quartet has been visiting artists  at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, the Indiana University String Academy as well as the Beethoven-Haus in Bonn, Germany. Recent appearances include the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., on National Public Radio, “The Weekly Special” on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), the Candlelight Concert Society in Baltimore, MD, and the “Music in the Loft” concert series in Chicago’s historic Fine Arts Building. The upcoming season includes artist residencies at the Abu Dhabi Chamber Music Festival, Music in the Vineyards in Napa Valley, California, as well as concerts in New York, Washington, D.C., Ohio, Illinois and Indiana.

In addition to their performance commitments, the Verona Quartet members are strong proponents of community engagement and education. They have an ongoing residency in the city of Danville, Illinois, where they have developed a concert series and work with developing young musicians on performance and practice skills. Since their residency commenced, many Danville schools have seen their music class enrollment increase in size to almost double the average in the State of Illinois.

The Verona Quartet is currently the Graduate String Quartet-in-Residence at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, where they are mentored by the Pacifica Quartet, as well as Alexander Kerr, Atar Arad and Eric Kim. The Quartet has also worked with Peter Salaff, Jerry Horner, Jorja Fleezanis, Paul Kantor and members of the Brentano, Cleveland, Cavani, American, Tokyo and London Haydn Quartets.

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Stamitz Viola Concerto Competition Winners Announced

Congratulations to Gabriel Polycarpo, winner of Stamitz Viola Concerto Competition!  He is a student of Edward Gazouleas.

The runner-up is Pablo Munoz, student of Kevork Mardirossian and Masumi Per Rostad.

The concert with the Chamber Orchestra is Wednesday April 8, 2015 at 8:00 pm in Auer Hall.

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David Radzynski (BM Violin ’09) Named Concertmaster of Israel Philharmonic Orchestra

david21-300x233Jacobs alumnus David Radzynski (BM Violin ’09) was recently named as a new concertmaster of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. During his time at Jacobs School of Music, David worked closely with Mauricio Fuks and Kevork Mardirossian.

He writes he is very grateful for everything IU has given him.
Read an exclusive interview from the American Friends of the IPO here:

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Samuel Loeck wins Koussevitsky Bass Concerto Competition

Congratulations to Samuel Loeck, student of Bruce Bransby for winning the Koussevitsky Bass Concerto Competition!  The runner –up was Kaelan Decman, student of Bruce Bransby.

The performance will be Wednesday January 28, 2015 with the  University Orchestra.

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Denis Brott (’71) Appointed to the Order of Canada

Denis BrottHis Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, announced that Denis Brott has been appointed Member of the Order of Canada, recognized for his achievements as a cellist and pedagogue, and for his role in establishing the Canada Council of the Arts’ Musical Instrument Bank. Established in 1967 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the Order of Canada is the cornerstone of the Canadian Honours System and recognizes outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation. Renowned internationally as one of Canada’s finest performing musicians, Denis Brott is Founder, Executive and Artistic Director of the Montreal Chamber Music Festival, founded in 1995, and has been Professor at the Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Montréal since 1989.

“Being named to the Order of Canada is an honour unlike any I have had in my life,” says Denis Brott, “I am proudly Canadian and to be recognized by my own country in this way is thrilling. Music surpasses all borders and prejudices; it speaks directly to the heart and soul of all human beings. To me, it quite literally reflects the identity of what our great country stands for in the world.  My life’s work has been a passion and this honour will serve to continue to motivate me to excel, with devotion, in speaking the language of music.”

Denis Brott, C.M. rose to international attention in 1973 when he won 2nd Prize in the Munich International Cello Competition. Mentored by some of the world’s greatest cellists, such as Leonard Rose at the Juilliard School, Janos Starker at Indiana University, and Gregor Piatigorsky at the University of Southern California, Mr. Brott’s concert tours have since taken him to prestigious venues and festivals on four continents. A devoted chamber musician, Brott spent eight years in the Orford String Quartet, during which time he made 25 recordings, earning two Juno Awards (1985, 1987) for Best Chamber Ensemble Classical Recording, and the Grand Prix du Disque (1988) for the complete Beethoven string quartets. He has also appeared as guest with ensembles including the Guarneri, Emerson, Tokyo and Fine Arts String Quartets. His numerous solo recordings include Brahms’ Sonatas for cello and piano, and Homage to Piatigorsky, which received this accolade from Yo-Yo Ma:  “His playing throughout is exemplary, full of the rich sound and technical wizardry the master exemplified.  I think Piatigorsky would be proud.”

Denis Brott is a passionate pedagogue. He has been professor of cello and chamber music at the North Carolina School of the Arts, the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, the University of Toronto Faculty of Music, and the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, California. He has been in residence at Toronto Summer Music, the Banff Centre for the Arts, Marlboro Music Festival, the Sitka Summer Music Festival, and held the cello chair at the Musicorda Chamber Music Institute and Festival. Mr. Brott has been professor of cello and chamber music at the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal since 1989.

In 1985, Denis Brott played a pivotal role in the creation of the Canada Council for the Arts’ Musical Instrument Bank which gave him a magnificent 1706 David Tecchler cello for his lifetime use. Every three years, talented Canadian classical musicians take part in an intense competition for the chance to borrow fine stringed instruments from the Musical Instrument Bank, which includes 22 magnificent instruments worth a total of over $41 million. These historically-significant violins, cellos and bows, ranging in age from the late 1600s to the early 1900s, were crafted by the world’s finest luthiers such as Stradivari, Guarneri, and Gagliano. Mr. Brott continues to sit on the Musical Instrument Bank Advisory Board.

Since 1995, when Denis Brott presented the Festival’s inaugural concert at the Chalet atop Mount Royal, the Montreal Chamber Music Festival has presented over 200 concerts to an audience of more than 100,000. Through superior and innovative programming – making chamber music accessible to as broad a public as possible – Brott has always striven to present the full cultural richness and heritage of Montreal to music lovers within and beyond the city’s borders. In concerts ranging from classical to jazz to klezmer, the Festival has hosted innumerable internationally renowned artists, including Gary Graffman, Marc-André Hamelin, Jean-Philippe Collard, Colin Carr, André Laplante, James Ehnes, the Canadian Brass, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and the Emerson, Guarneri, Tokyo, and Fine Arts Quartets, to name only a few. Brott has also encouraged and presented relatively unknown young Canadian musicians who have since gone on to world renown, including pianist Jan Lisiecki, violinist Jonathan Crow (Toronto Symphony Orchestra concertmaster), as well as the winners of the Canada Council Musical Instrument Bank competition. The Festival’s 20th anniversary season will include 14 superb concerts at a range of top venues in the city. (Full program to be announced in January 2015.)

Additional recent honours for Denis Brott include the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal in recognition of his contribution to Canada (2012), and the Montreal Destination Centre-Ville “Event of the Year” award in 2014, for the Montreal Chamber Music Festival. The Order of Canada insignia will be presented to this year’s appointees at a later date at Rideau Hall, in Ottawa.

Story by Shira Gilbert

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Rachell Wong named one of the winners in the Heida Hermanns International String Competition

Winners Announced in 2014 Heida Hermanns International String Competition

heida hermanns string competition

Xiao Wang, violinist from China, is the winner of the 2014 Heida Hermanns International String Competition presented by the Connecticut Alliance for Music (CAM) with the support of the Westport Arts Center, on Saturday and Sunday, November 22 and 23, at Westport Town Hall. Now celebrating its 43rd year, the annual competition is named for the late Heida Hermanns, an acclaimed concert pianist who lived in Westport with her husband Artur for more than 40 years.

As the competition winner, Wang was awarded a $5,000 cash prize. Wang began playing the violin at age five. At age 10, he was accepted to study at the Central Conservatory in Beijing, later studying at the Curtis Institute of Music. He was First Prize winner of the 2012 Szigeti International Violin Competition and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Young Artists Competition. Wang is currently a full scholarship student at Manhattan School of Music.

Second place went to Rachell Wong, violinist from the United States, who was the recipient of a $2,500 cash prize. She is a Master’s student at the Jacobs School of Music of Indiana University. She was the Gold Medal winner at the 2013 International Crescendo Music Awards and the Grand Prize winner in the 52nd Sorantin International Young Artists Competition for Piano and Strings.

In third place was Chensi Tang, violist of China, who earned a $1,500 cash prize. She is a student at Manhattan School of Music, and a graduate of the Middle School of the Central Conservatory in Beijing. Tang is one of the winners of the Bled International Viola Competition, the 5 Towns Music and Art Foundation Young Musicians Competition, and the Manhattan School of Music Concerto Competition.

Honorable mentions, at $500 each, were awarded Christina Bouey, violinist of Canada and graduate of Manhattan School of Music; You Kyung Kim, cellist of Korea, who attended Juilliard, Yale, and currently attends Longy School of Music at Bard College; and Xinou Wei, violinist of China, who holds a Master’s of Music degree from Mannes College of Music and this year was awarded a full scholarship to pursue a Doctorate of Musical Arts at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers.

From audition CDs submitted by university and conservatory music students and alumni world-wide, 20 semifinalists competed on Saturday, November 22. Six musicians were selected to advance to the Sunday finals, November 23.

Three distinguished professional string musicians judged the competition: Avron Coleman, cellist; Laurance Fader, violist; and Gino Sambuco, violinist.

Heida Hermanns was a world-class concert pianist and child prodigy. A Jewish refugee, she fled Nazi Germany with her two great loves – her husband Artur Holde, and the music in her heart. Artur became her agent, and for many years, Heida had a very successful concert career. Artur and Heida eventually took up residence in Westport. After Artur’s passing, Heida founded the competition for piano, woodwinds, voice, and strings in 1971. In 1972 – along with Josephine Barnett, Ruth Steinkraus Cohen, Brenda Lewis Cooper, Joanne DeBergh Dublin, and Harriet Salerno – she founded the organization that is today known as Connecticut Alliance for Music. Initially called Performers of Southern Connecticut, it quickly grew to become Performers of Connecticut. As the membership became more audience-based than performer-based, the name was changed to Connecticut Alliance for Music. Heida lived in Westport for over 40 years, promoting and endorsing all of the arts. During her last years, the Competition was re-named in her honor.

Connecticut Alliance for Music, for more than 43 years, has been nurturing the talents and careers of young musicians and fostering the love of fine music.


For more information, contact Connecticut Alliance for Music at 203-319.8271.

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Concert a beautiful memorial to Ik-Hwan Bae

By Peter Jacobi


“A Concert in Remembrance of Ik-Hwan Bae” brought family, friends, colleagues and students to Auer Hall Sunday afternoon. Those who came heard praise for a gentle and giving man; they heard music performed by musicians from here and elsewhere, musicians who played concerts with him across the years.

Officially at the Jacobs School, Ik-Hwan Bae, until his far-to-early death last July, was a professor of violin and chamber music. That was his title, reflecting his duties and passions: to share with young talents a craft of inspired violin playing and his experience performing chamber music. The latter he served with fervor by drawing multitudes of students into string quartets that rehearsed their way toward always interesting concerts in the Musical Arts Center lobby.

What helped make him special, as personally observed and as attested to during Sunday’s memorial by those who spoke and knew him best, was a generous personality marked with geniality and yet serious drive, marked with an intense devotion to those who made music with him and to the young, striving to follow in his footsteps.

Throughout the concert, photographs of a life lived fully flashed onto the large screen lowered in front of the organ. Fellow musicians from the school played works that Bae loved or had some special meaning: pianist Sung-Mi Im, Chopin’s Nocturne in G Minor; violist Atar Arad, Ravel’s “Sonate posthume;” pianist Reiko Shigeoka-Neriki, Schumann’s Romance in F-Sharp Minor; pianist Shigeo Neriki, portions from a very contemporary, very somber Requiem by Masahiro Ishijima.

Faculty colleague and cellist Eric Kim led 20 students of an Ik-Hwan String Ensemble in a moving performance of Dvorak’s Nocturne in B Major. And to conclude, five friends from afar contributed two movements from Mozart’s Quintet in A Major, the Larghetto and the Allegretto. The distinguished performers, each with an amazing list of accomplishments, were clarinetist David Shifrin, violinists Theodore Arm and Carmit Zori, violist Paul Neubauer and cellist Fred Sherry. One could but hope that the glorious music so beautifully performed might somehow reach Ik-Hwan Bae. It would certainly please him.

As would the whole of a remembrance that cast such warmth. Those who gathered on Sunday afternoon made it clear that Ik-Hwan Bae was much loved and that he leaves a legacy of good teaching, good playing and good will.


© Herald Times 2014


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MUSIC REVIEW: Pacifica Quartet performs at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall

Pacifica Quartet @ Chamber Music Society


Friday November 7th, 2014 – Tonight the phenomenal Pacifica Quartet were at Alice Tully Hall, the latest offering in Chamber Music Society’s 2014-2015 season which has to date offered a feast of fantastic musicianship. And they’re just getting started: so much more to look forward to.

Above: the artists of the Pacifica Quartet; from left, Masumi Per Rostand, Simin Ganatra, Brandon Vamos, and Sibbi Bernhardsson

Above: the artists of the Pacifica Quartet; from left, Masumi Per Rostand, Simin Ganatra, Brandon Vamos, and Sibbi Bernhardsson

The Pacifica Quartet’s programming was especially strong: classics from the string quartet literature by Haydn and Mendelssohn book-ended the New York premiere of a truly fascinating work by Shulamit Ran and an atmospherice miniature from the great operatic composer Gacomo Puccini. In all of this, the players displayed a meshing of four distinctive voices into a polished and beautifully resonant chorale.

The opening movement of the Haydn ‘Sunrise‘ quartet, which veers from meditative to dynamic, immediately displayed the high level of communicative artistry that the Pacifica musicians delivered all evening. The wellspring of their collective sound seems to emanate from the velvety sonorities which  Brandon Vamos coaxes from his cello, inspiring a seamless passing of melody from voice to voice. From the rich harmonies of the Adagio, a silken rising theme for violin is luxuriantly spun out by Simin Ganatra. Following a Menuetto with witty nuances, the players launch the dance-like finale, only to accelerate to double-time for an exhilarating conclusion.

Shulamit Ran’s Glitter, Doom, Shards, Memory, Quartet for Strings #3, is one of the most inventive and impressive pieces of new music I’ve heard in recent seasons. Unlike some contemorary composers, Ran is not afraid of melodic beauty, and she can also employ distinctive touches which seem totally natural rather than lacquered on for effect.


Above: The Refugee by Felix Nussbaum, 1939

Ms. Ran drew inspiration for this work from the brief life and evocative paintings of Felix Nussbaum, a German Jew who met his doom at Auschwitz in 1944 at the age of 39.

The quartet opens with shimmering textures for the upper voices, soon joined by the soulful song of the cello. In the second movement, Menace, the composer introduces the stomping of feet which at first seems dancelike but has the darker implication of the tread of soldiers passing by; then a remarkable moment when violinist Sibbi Bernhardsson begins to whistle: a plaintive, lonely sound. “If I must perish – do not let my paintings die!” implored Felix Nussbaum as he envisioned his fate; the third movement of the quartet is inspired by this quote and is filled with fluttering and tapping sounds, and an quietly ominous feel of encroaching insects. In the final movement, Shards, Memory, the music is soft and eerie; there’s a haunting theme for viola, poignantly played by Masumi Per Rostand. In today’s world, where stories of man’s inhumanity to man still appear on a daily basis, we can only lament the fact that history seems to have taught us nothing. This quartet, so impressively constructed and so inspiringly played, is both thought-provoking and timely.

Puccini’s Crisantemi, a brief and melancholy miniature tone-poem, drew rich playing from the musicians; the melodies were later incorporated by the composer into his career-changing opera, MANON LESCAUT.

Mendelssohn’s Quartet in F-minor concluded the programme and extended the themes of sadness, tragedy, and loss found in the Ran and Puccini, for the composer wrote this quartet while in the depths of grief over the death of his sister Fanny. It was to be Mendelssohn’s last important work.

All sense of merriment and joy are missing from this work; even the faster movements are tinged with darkish colours. The second movement, which normally would be a sprightly scherzo, is here marked by an almost somber doubling of viola and cello. The adagio has a plaintive quality, and as the concluding Allegro molto moves towards a climax, there’s a fiendishing demanding violin theme that seems to express inner torment and feverish despair.

The audience embraced the Pacifica players warmly at the end, and they repaid our enthusiasm by generously encoring the second movement of the Ran. Learn more about the Ran work here.

This evening’s repertory:

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MUSIC REVIEW: Pacifica Quartet performs at Lincoln Center

From Eerie Shards to Vivid Emotion

Pacifica Quartet Presents Shulamit Ran Premiere and Classics

By Zachary Woolfe

Encores in opera houses are different than they are in concert halls, where artists usually respond to ovations by showing off something new. In opera, though, excited audiences will demand a “bis” — a repeat of an aria that’s gone particularly well.

After warm applause at the end of the excellent Pacifica Quartet’s concert on Friday evening at Alice Tully Hall, its members sat down for a surprising encore: the second movement, “Menace,” of Shulamit Ran’s “Glitter, Doom, Shards, Memory” (2012-13), which the group had played in its entirety before intermission. It was a rare string quartet bis.

Pacifica Quartet played works by Shulamit Ran, Haydn, Puccini and Mendelssohn at Alice Tully Hall.

Pacifica Quartet played works by Shulamit Ran, Haydn, Puccini and Mendelssohn at Alice Tully Hall.

The Pacifica clearly believes strongly in “Glitter, Doom, Shards, Memory,” whose world premiere it gave in May in Toronto; presented under the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s auspices, this was the work’s New York premiere. In four movements, it is inspired by the short life and eerie art of the painter Felix Nussbaum (1904-44), who died at Auschwitz.

Ms. Ran’s craftsmanship is, as ever, expert. The first movement, “That Which Happened,” begins with ethereal textures that thicken, with the addition of pizzicato plucking and meatier cello lines, as the harmonies grow troubled. The instruments mimic sirens, and dissonances build before an uneasily calm ending that sets the stage for the second movement, an anxiously rhythmic danse macabre, even more fiercely lucid in its encore performance.

In the third movement, impassioned solos emerge from ominous quiet, and high arpeggios in the violins (Simin Ganatra and Sibbi Bernhardsson) quiver alongside the earthy cello (Brandon Vamos). Ms. Ran skillfully deploys these extremes of color, volume and pitch, yet the overall somewhat chilly impression is one of poise.

Similarly, the final movement, “Shards, Memory,” seems intended to convey a mood of dislocation and disintegration. But it ends up being merely coherent and polished, with an eloquent viola solo (Masumi Per Rostad). Like the rest of the work, it inspires admiration more than emotion.

Authentic emotion emerged more freely from the rest of the program: Haydn’s Quartet in B flat, “Sunrise,” performed with delicacy and clarity; Puccini’s “Crisantemi,” effectively restrained; and, especially, Mendelssohn’s final quartet, in F minor, composed just after his sister’s death.

The Pacifica was alert to the fevered work’s restless wanderings and brief oases of calm, sustaining feeling in the Adagio not by overstatement but through unanimity of phrasing. The sound in the second movement was hauntingly muted, like a dirge heard through the fog, and the ferocious finale almost uncomfortably vivid.

© The New York Times 2014

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Music Review: Pacifica Fall Concert

Pacifica Quartet continues to impress

By Peter Jacobi


Every time the Pacifica Quartet sits down to perform a concert in Auer Hall, those of us who have come to listen can be grateful that these four outstanding musicians decided to move here to serve as the Indiana University Jacobs School’s resident string quartet.

PacificaQuartet-250As such, they do far more than give periodic concerts. They each teach a studio of violin majors. They also perform all sorts of duties in support of chamber music by encouraging and coaching string students to do chamber music, an activity of value when they move into the professional world.

But, of course, for those of us on the outside, the fact that one of the world’s great string quartets is here for us to enjoy in concert, free of charge, is a privilege to treasure. We are very lucky. And we were very lucky Monday evening as the Pacifica offered up another concert, one with both traditional and unusual elements, and played so brilliantly.

The bookends — Haydn’s Quartet in B-Flat Major (“Sunrise”) and Mendelssohn’s Quartet No. 6 in F Minor, Opus 80 — were taken from standard repertoire. The selections in between — Shulamit Ran’s Quartet No. 3: “Glitter, Doom, Shards, Memory” and Puccini’s brief tribute to melancholy, “Crisantemi” (“Chrysanthemums”) — filled out the program, providing an intriguing mix.

There was nothing standard in the manner that the Pacifica played Haydn’s “Sunrise,” one of the most beautiful of all that he wrote. From the radiant opening, the first violinist’s ascending, sunshiny melody, forward, the musicians shaped a detailed and impassioned musical passage: from a spirited Allegro, through a gloomy, un-Haydn-like Adagio, a danceable Menuetto, and a Finale that continually gains momentum. Throughout, the unity of ensemble and artistic purpose was exemplary.

Ran’s quartet was commissioned by the Pacifica and honors a victim of the Holocaust, the German Jewish painter Felix Nussbaum who continued to paint until he died at Auschwitz. “If I perish, do not let my paintings die” was his plea. Some of his paintings did survive, and in Ran’s graphic score, the painter himself is remembered. The music is not pretty and emulates both Nussbaum’s personal tragedy and the world tragedy that is the Holocaust. The Pacifica’s reading was intense, to be sure.

Like Ran’s quartet, the remainder of the program dealt with tragedy. Puccini’s “Crisantemi” was written to mark the death of the Duke of Savoy. Melancholic it is and, in content, of oriental fragrance, reminiscent of Puccini’s operas “Madam Butterfly” and “Turandot.” The mood was gorgeously captured.

Mendelssohn’s Sixth Quartet, his last, was a sorrowful and bitter response to the death of his older sister, Fanny, whom he loved dearly. To compound the tragedy, the composer died just two months after he completed it. As perhaps intended by Mendelssohn, the Pacifica tore into the music with Beethoven-esque fervor. The music emerged as powerfully angry, coming from a man expressing crushed spirits and hope. The audience cheered the performance; it was outstanding.


© Herald Times 2014


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