Rolston String Quartet
December 19, 2021 at 4 p.m.
Minsky Recital Hall
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Rolston String Quartet

Sunday, December 19, 2021 at 4 p.m.
Minsky Recital Hall

Rolston String Quartet

The acclaimed Rolston String Quartet was formed in the summer of 2013 in Alberta, Canada, at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity’s Chamber Music Residency. It takes its name from Canadian violinist Thomas Rolston, founder and longtime director of the Music and Sound Programs at the Banff Centre.

The quartet was awarded First Prize at the 12th Banff International String Quartet Competition, and was the 2018 recipient of Chamber Music America’s Cleveland Quartet Award—the first international ensemble chosen for that prestigious honor.

Since the quartet’s recording debut with Souvenirs—an all-Tchaikovsky album that was released in 2019 and named Recording of the Month by BBC Music Magazine—it continues to receive praise and recognition for its musical excellence. It has performed at numerous prestigious venues including Carnegie Hall, London’s Wigmore Hall, the Freer Gallery in Washington, DC, and UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music; at chamber music societies in Calgary, Vancouver, Houston, Detroit, Phoenix, Fort Worth, Kansas City, Philadelphia, and Portland (OR); and in such European cities as Paris, Leipzig, Berlin, Lucerne, Heidelberg, Barcelona, and Graz.

Notable artistic collaborators have included David Shifrin, Janina Fialkowska, Gary Hoffman, Nobuko Imai, Miguel da Silva, and the St. Lawrence and Dover quartets.

The quartet’s 2021-22 schedule includes concerts at Music Mountain (CT), Bay Chamber Concerts and the Collins Center for the Arts (ME), Chamber Music Raleigh (NC), Palm Beach State College (FL), Music at Kohl Mansion (CA), and the Doudna Fine Arts Center at Eastern Illinois University.

The Rolston String Quartet is represented in the United States by New York-based Sciolino Artist Management.

Tickets: $36, including fees. K-12 free with accompanying adult.


Joseph Haydn: String Quartet in D Major, Op. 33, No. 6
Gabriela Lena Frank: Leyendas


Joseph Haydn: String Quartet in B Minor, Op. 33, No. 1
Felix Mendelssohn: String Quartet in E Minor, Op. 44, No. 2

Program Notes

By Laura Artesani, D.M.A.

String Quartet in D major, Op. 33 No. 6 by Franz Joseph Haydn

Although Haydn was not the first composer to write string quartets, he was the first composer to fully realize the possibilities of this genre. Consequently, he is widely known as “the father of the string quartet.” The six quartets that comprise Opus 33 were written in 1781. They were the first string quartets that Haydn had written for ten years, having channeled his energy into composing five operas and other works in the meantime. The traditional minuets in this set are replaced by animated scherzos (Italian for “trick” or “joke’). Author James M. Keller writes of Op. 33, “This set proved so popular with musicians that it effectively reinvigorated widespread interest in the composition of string quartets. It gave rise directly to the great quartets of Mozart’s maturity (most immediately to the younger composer’s six quartets dedicated to Haydn), and at a gap of about fifteen years, to the early quartets of Beethoven, who was briefly Haydn’s composition pupil.” This set is known as the Russian, because it is dedicated to Grand Duke Paul of Russia. The first performance of these quartets took place on Christmas Day of 1781, at the apartment of the Duke’s wife, the Grand Duchess Maria Feodorovna in Vienna.

The first movement, in 6/8 time, is similar to Mozart’s later Hunt quartet, K. 458. The four instruments are treated equally, sometimes echoing and other times interrupting each other’s ideas. In the Andante movement, the first violin holds a long, sustained note while the second violin and viola explore and develop the theme. The first violin then plays the melody, beginning in minor but changing to major mode for the second theme. In three-part form, the movement concludes with a return to the first theme. The vigorous Scherzo features offbeat accents, with the cello introducing a lyrical, contrasting melody for the middle section. In the finale, we have the first example of double variation form in a Haydn string quartet, a favorite form of the composer that also appears in later string quartets. It consists of variations on two alternating themes, the A theme in major and the B theme in minor, with an overall form of ABA1B1A2.

Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout by Gabriela Lena Frank

Composer and pianist Gabriela Lena Frank was born in Berkeley, CA in1972. Her father is Lithuanian, and her mother is Peruvian, of Chinese descent. Frank has traveled extensively in South America, and her compositions often combine South American folk traditions with classical music traditions. Frank received her doctorate from the University of Michigan, where her composition professors included William Albright and William Bolcom.

Born with significant hearing loss, Frank has been recognized for her work with deaf high school students, and she has also done extensive volunteer work in hospitals and prisons. In 2020, Frank was a recipient of the 25th anniversary Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities, which recognized her work in breaking cultural, disability and gender barriers. The award included a $250,000 honorarium, which she used to establish the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music. She is the winner of a Latin Grammy, and has composed works commissioned by Yo-Yo Ma, soprano Dawn Upshaw, the King’s Singers, and conductor Marin Alsop. From 2013-2017, she was the composer in residence with the Detroit Symphony, and she has also completed two residencies with the Houston Symphony. Frank is currently the composer in residence at the Caines School of Music at Utah State University.

Frank has written the following description of Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout:“Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout (2001) mixes elements from the western classical and Andean folk music traditions, drawing inspiration from the idea of mestizaje as envisioned by the Peruvian writer Jose María Arguedas, wherein cultures co-exist without the subjugation of one by the other. “Toyos” depicts one of the most recognizable instruments of the Andes, the panpipe. The largest kind is the breathy toyo, which requires great stamina and lungpower and is typically played in parallel fourths. “Tarqueada” is a forceful and fast number suggestive of the tarka, a heavy wooden duct flute that is blown harshly in order to split the tone. Tarka ensembles typically play in casually tuned fourths, fifths, and octaves. “Himno de Zampoñas” takes its cue from a particular type of panpipe ensemble that divides up melodies through a technique known as hocketing. The characteristic sound of the zampoña panpipe is that of a fundamental tone blown flatly so that overtones ring out on top. “Chasqui” depicts the chasqui, a legendary runner from the Inca times who sprinted great distances to deliver messages between towns separated from one another by the Andean peaks. The chasqui needed to travel light, so I imagine his choice of instruments to be the charango, a high-pitched cousin of the guitar, and the lightweight bamboo quena flute, both of which influence this movement. “Canto de Velorio” portrays another well-known Andean personality, a professional crying woman known as llorona. Hired to render funeral rituals (known as velorio) even sadder, the llorona is accompanied here by a second llorona and an additional chorus of mourning women (coro de mujeres). The chant Dies Irae is quoted as a reflection of the llorona‘s penchant for blending verses from Quechua Indian folklore and western religious rites. “Coqueteos” is a flirtatious love song sung by men known as romanceros and is direct in its harmonic expression, bold, and festive. The romanceros sang in harmony with one another against a backdrop of guitars, which I think of as a vendaval de guitarras (storm of guitars).”–Gabriela-Lena-Frank/

String Quartet in B minor, Op. 33, No. 1 by Franz Joseph Haydn

The first of the six quartets that comprise Haydn’s Op. 33 is generally considered to be the most dramatic, and is the only one in a minor key. The opening movement is based on only one theme, without the usual contrasting second theme; Haydn takes this opportunity to fully explore this lone theme in both minor and major mode. In the lighthearted Scherzo, Haydn uses the technique known as bariolage, in which the same note is played on alternating strings (this technique is used extensively in Haydn’s string quartet known as The Frog, Op. 50, No. 6). A calm trio in B major follows, before a return to the opening Scherzo theme. The Andante is a regal waltz in D major that explores the stately theme from a variety of viewpoints. The virtuosic finale, in sonata form, features rapid arpeggios, fiddle-like string crossings for the first violin, and more bariolage.

String Quartet in E minor, Op. 44 No. 2 by Felix Mendelssohn

Labeled the second of the three quartets that comprise Mendelssohn’s Opus 44, the String Quartet in E minor is actually the first one that Mendelssohn completed, on June 18, 1837. At this time, he was on an extended honeymoon with his wife, Cécile; they spent most of the month of June in the Black Forest in southwestern Germany. In addition to this quartet, Felix also composed the opening chorus of Psalm 42, Op. 42, and completed the third installment of his Songs Without Words (Lieder ohne worte), Op. 38 for solo piano in June of 1837. Felix and Cécile met the future Oscar I, Crown Prince of Sweden during this trip; the Op. 44 quartets are dedicated to him. The three Op. 44 quartets are generally considered to be more traditional and balanced than his two earlier quartets (Opp. 12 and 13), but they are nevertheless brimming with vitality and romantic expressiveness.

The first movement begins with an ascending arpeggio in the first violin, accompanied by syncopated chords. The agitated, yet melancholy mood is similar to Mendelssohn’s famous Violin Concerto in the same key of E minor, which was written seven years later. The delightful second movement, a Scherzo in E major, features a rhythmic motive that includes rapidly repeated, staccato sixteenth notes followed by eighth notes. As Melvin Berger writes in his Guide to Chamber Music, “This is a particularly attractive Scherzo, lithesome, graceful, and one of the best examples of this form that Mendelssohn ever wrote.” The passionate Andante movement in G major is reminiscent of the composer’s aforementioned Songs Without Words (Lieder ohne Worte) for solo piano. The quartet concludes with the vivacious Presto con brio (extremely fast, in a spirited manner) in perpetual motion.


Rolston String Quartet members:

Luri Lee, Violin
Jason Issokson, Violin
Hezekiah Leung, Viola
Ari Evan, Cello

Check out this video of the Quartet playing Beethoven:

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