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Escher Quartet with Jordan Bak, viola | March 16, 2024 | House Program

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CLASSICAL / ENSEMBLE SERIES<br />

ESCHER QUARTET<br />

<strong>with</strong> violist, Jordon <strong>Bak</strong><br />

MARCH <strong>16</strong>, <strong>2024</strong>, AT 7:30 PM<br />

CLASSICAL / ENSEMBLE SERIES<br />

ESCHER QUARTET<br />

<strong>with</strong> violist, Jordon <strong>Bak</strong><br />

MARCH <strong>16</strong>, <strong>2024</strong>, AT 7:30 PM


CLASSICAL / ENSEMBLE SERIES<br />

ESCHER QUARTET<br />

<strong>with</strong> violist, Jordon <strong>Bak</strong><br />

ESCHER QUARTET<br />

Adam Barnett-Hart, violin<br />

Brendan Speltz, violin<br />

Pierre Lapointe, <strong>viola</strong><br />

Brook Speltz, cello<br />

WITH<br />

Jordon <strong>Bak</strong>, <strong>viola</strong><br />

PROGRAM<br />

HAYDN<br />

String <strong>Quartet</strong> in D Major, Op. 64, No. 5, The Lark<br />

Allegro moderato<br />

Adagio cantabile<br />

Minuet: Allegretto<br />

Finale: Vivace<br />

JANÁČEK<br />

String <strong>Quartet</strong> No. 2, Intimate Letters<br />

Andante con moto — Allegro<br />

Adagio — Vivace<br />

Moderato — Adagio — Allegro<br />

Allegro — Andante — Adagio<br />

INTERMISSION<br />

DVOŘÁK<br />

String Quintet No. 3 in E Flat Major, Op. 97, American<br />

Allegro non tanto<br />

Allegro vivo — Un poco meno mosso<br />

Larghetto<br />

Finale: Allegro giusto


PROGRAM NOTES<br />

An accomplished violinist, composer Joseph<br />

Haydn (1732-1809) often played the first violin part<br />

in chamber ensembles for his own pleasure and<br />

enjoyment. This intimate understanding of what<br />

it means to sit in the first chair, is worth noting in<br />

the way that Haydn often gives the first violinist<br />

the important melodic material. In the case of the<br />

Op. 64, No. 5, <strong>Quartet</strong>, the first violin’s introduction<br />

of the opening movement’s main theme is said<br />

to characterize the work’s nickname, The Lark.<br />

As <strong>with</strong> many nicknames, though, once applied it<br />

is remarkable how appropriate they seem in the<br />

broader context—for example, the grace notes<br />

heard in the Minuet, could also be perceived as<br />

having a bird-like quality. Equally, the way the<br />

last movement flies off in just over two minutes,<br />

projects a soaring velocity that is just as apt.<br />

Czech composer Leoš Janáček (1854-1928) was<br />

born just 13 years after his compatriot, Antonin<br />

Dvořák (1841-1904), and he cited the older<br />

composer as an early influence, even dedicating<br />

some of his early compositions to Dvořák.<br />

However, Janáček’s Second String <strong>Quartet</strong>, one of<br />

the last works he composed, has a distinctive voice<br />

that seems far removed from Dvořák’s approach<br />

to tonality and form. This four-movement quartet,<br />

<strong>with</strong> its emphasis on introducing unexpected<br />

new ideas and colours at almost every turn is,<br />

by Janáček’s own explanation, representative of<br />

the ecstatic portrayal of a seventy-four-year-oldcomposer<br />

expressing his unbridled passion for a<br />

lover, 38 years his junior, and why he subtitled the<br />

work, “Intimate Letters.”<br />

At the age of fifty, Dvořák was appointed professor<br />

of composition at the Prague Conservatory, but<br />

just one year later he received an offer he really<br />

couldn’t refuse, becoming the Director of the<br />

National Conservatory of Music in New York<br />

City for a salary 25 times larger than his Prague<br />

stipend. Once in America, Dvořák was drawn to<br />

the originality of African/American spirituals and<br />

native Indigenous music, commenting specifically<br />

on how these musical traditions shared a common<br />

emphasis on repetitive melodic gestures and<br />

repeated rhythmic patterns. Dvořák even wrote<br />

articles encouraging American composers to use<br />

these sources as a foundation for a distinctive<br />

American style of composition.<br />

Shortly after arriving in in the United States,<br />

Dvořák accepted a New York Philharmonic<br />

commission for his Ninth Symphony, a work he<br />

subtitled, From the New World. This work so<br />

successfully captured the expressive flavour of the<br />

African/American spiritual in the slow movement’s<br />

theme, that 30 years later, words were added<br />

to the melody to create the spiritual-like song,<br />

“Goin’ Home.” This “new world” background bears<br />

heavily on today’s String Quintet, as it was one<br />

of three works given the subtitle, American—all<br />

of which were composed during the summer<br />

of 1893 while Dvořák was orchestrating the<br />

Ninth Symphony for its upcoming Carnegie Hall<br />

premiere. While there is an honest simplicity in the<br />

thematic material in these pieces, as always <strong>with</strong><br />

Dvořák, there is a spontaneity in the development<br />

of his musical ideas. This process is clearly on<br />

display in the Quintet’s slow movement that is<br />

structured as a set of five variations based on a<br />

double theme, the first half placed in the unusual<br />

string key of A flat minor, while the other half shifts<br />

to A flat major.<br />

©<strong>2024</strong> by John Burge for the Isabel<br />

ABOUT ESCHER QUARTET<br />

The <strong>Escher</strong> String <strong>Quartet</strong> has received acclaim for<br />

its profound musical insight and rare tonal beauty.<br />

A former BBC New Generation Artist and recipient<br />

of the Avery Fisher Career Grant, the quartet has<br />

performed at the BBC Proms at Cadogan Hall and<br />

is a regular guest at Wigmore Hall. In its home town<br />

of New York, the ensemble serves as season artists<br />

of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.<br />

The <strong>Escher</strong> <strong>Quartet</strong> has made a distinctive<br />

impression throughout Europe <strong>with</strong> recent<br />

debuts including the Amsterdam Concertgebouw,<br />

Berlin Konzerthaus, London’s Kings Place, Tel<br />

Aviv Museum of Art, and Auditorium du Louvre.<br />

The group has appeared at festivals such as the<br />

Heidelberg Spring Festival, Budapest’s Franz Liszt<br />

Academy, the Hong Kong International Chamber<br />

Music Festival, and the Perth International Arts<br />

Festival in Australia. Alongside its growing<br />

European profile, the <strong>Escher</strong> <strong>Quartet</strong> continues<br />

to flourish in its home country, performing at<br />

the Aspen Music Festival, Bravo! Vail, Santa Fe


Chamber Music Festival, Toronto Summer Music,<br />

Chamber Music San Francisco, Music@Menlo, and<br />

the Ravinia and Caramoor festivals.<br />

The 2022-2023 season saw the release of two<br />

albums including string quartets by Pierre Jalbert<br />

and the <strong>Escher</strong>’s studio recording of the complete<br />

Janáček quartets. Recordings of the complete<br />

Mendelssohn quartets and beloved romantic<br />

quartets of Dvořák, Borodin and Tchaikovsky were<br />

released on the BIS label in 2015-18 and received<br />

<strong>with</strong> the highest critical acclaim, <strong>with</strong> comments<br />

such as “...eloquent, full-blooded playing... The<br />

four players offer a beautiful blend of individuality<br />

and accord” (BBC Music Magazine).<br />

Beyond the concert hall, the <strong>Escher</strong> <strong>Quartet</strong> is<br />

proud to announce the creation of a not-for-profit<br />

organization, ESQYRE (<strong>Escher</strong> String <strong>Quartet</strong><br />

Youth Residency Education). ESQYRE’s mission is<br />

to provide a comprehensive educational program<br />

through music performance and instruction for<br />

people of all ages. In addition, the quartet has held<br />

faculty positions at Southern Methodist University<br />

in Dallas, TX and the University of Akron, OH.<br />

The <strong>Escher</strong> <strong>Quartet</strong> takes its name from the Dutch<br />

graphic artist M.C. <strong>Escher</strong>, inspired by <strong>Escher</strong>’s<br />

method of interplay between individual components<br />

working together to form a whole.<br />

ABOUT JORDAN BAK<br />

Award-winning Jamaican-American violist <strong>Jordan</strong><br />

<strong>Bak</strong> has achieved international acclaim as a<br />

trailblazing artist, praised for his radiant stage<br />

presence, dynamic interpretations, and fearless<br />

power. Critics have described him as “an exciting<br />

new voice in Classical performance” (I Care If You<br />

Listen), “a powerhouse musician, <strong>with</strong> a strong<br />

voice and compelling sound” (The Whole Note) and<br />

lauded his “haunting lyrical grace” (Gramophone).<br />

The 2021 YCAT Robey Artist and a top laureate<br />

of the 2020 Sphinx Competition, <strong>Bak</strong> is also a<br />

Grand Prize winner and Audience Prize recipient<br />

of the 2019 Concert Artists Guild Victor Elmaleh<br />

Competition, the recipient of the 2019 Samuel<br />

Sanders Tel Aviv Museum Prize and the 2019 John<br />

White Special Prize from the Tertis International<br />

Viola Competition. Other recent accolades include<br />

being named one of ClassicFM’s “30 Under 30”<br />

Rising Stars, Musical America’s New Artist of the<br />

Month and being a featured artist for WQXR’s<br />

inaugural Artist Propulsion Lab.<br />

<strong>Bak</strong> has appeared as soloist <strong>with</strong> such orchestras<br />

as Sarasota Orchestra, London Mozart Players,<br />

New York Classical Players, Juilliard Orchestra and<br />

Brandon Hill Chamber Orchestra among others, and<br />

has performed under such esteemed conductors<br />

as Howard Griffiths, Stephen Mulligan, Keith<br />

Lockhart, Gerard Schwarz, and Ewa Strusińska.<br />

As a recitalist and chamber musician, he has been<br />

heard at some of the world’s greatest performance<br />

venues including Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall,<br />

the Concertgebouw, Wigmore Hall, <strong>Jordan</strong> Hall,<br />

Merkin Concert Hall, Princeton University Concerts,<br />

Perelman Theater at The Kimmel Center, Elgar<br />

Concert Hall, and Helsinki Musiikkitalo. <strong>Bak</strong>’s recent<br />

performances include recitals at Kravis Center,<br />

Wiltshire Music Centre, Isabella Stewart Gardner<br />

Museum, Harriman-Jewell Series, Lichfield Festival,<br />

and Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival.<br />

Recent and upcoming highlights include NEXUS<br />

Chamber Music, Brooklyn Chamber Music Society,<br />

and Emory University, as well as an upcoming tour<br />

<strong>with</strong> Musicians from Marlboro. <strong>Bak</strong> has performed<br />

as a guest <strong>with</strong> the Verona <strong>Quartet</strong> and Merz Trio<br />

and has collaborated <strong>with</strong> such artists as Jonathan<br />

Biss, Lara Downes, Jennifer Frautschi, Ani Kavafian,<br />

Soovin Kim, Charles Neidich, Marina Piccinini, and<br />

Gilles Vonsattel.<br />

Passionate about education, <strong>Bak</strong> currently serves<br />

as Assistant Professor of Viola at University of<br />

North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA). He<br />

was a former faculty member of Bowling Green<br />

State University in Ohio and served as a visiting<br />

artist and Ambassador for Music Masters in<br />

London. Additionally, he has given masterclasses at<br />

Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University,<br />

Oberlin Conservatory, University of Wisconsin-<br />

Madison, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (UK),<br />

Conservatorio del Tolima (Colombia), and the<br />

Brevard Music Center.<br />

Only the third violist to earn the Artist Diploma from<br />

The Juilliard School, <strong>Jordan</strong> <strong>Bak</strong> holds a Bachelor of<br />

Music degree from New England Conservatory and<br />

a Master of Music degree from The Juilliard School<br />

where he was awarded the prestigious Kovner<br />

Fellowship. His principal teachers were Dimitri<br />

Murrath, Hsin-Yun Huang, and Samuel Rhodes.<br />

<strong>Jordan</strong> <strong>Bak</strong> plays a 20<strong>16</strong> <strong>viola</strong> made by Jon van<br />

Kouwenhoven.

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