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Communique: Calidore String Quartet @ UNCW | Mendelssohn, Shostakovich, Beethoven, Shaw

Calidore Quartet


The acclaimed Calidore String Quartet returns to Wilmington to perform at Beckwith Recital Hall on Sunday, April 7. The program includes Mendelssohn, Shostakovich, Beethoven--and new music from Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw.

The performance is at 7:30pm on Sunday, 4/7. Tickets are available through the Kenan Box Office at 910-962-3500; online; and, if available,  at the Cultural Arts Building Box Office beginning at 6:30pm on the night of the performance. 

This is the final concert of this season from Chamber Music Wilmington. Artistic Director Barbara McKenzie says she's excited to introduce the music of Caroline Shaw to Wilmington audiences because the composer will visit Wilmington in the fall, performing then with the Jasper Quartet. 

Listen to Barbara McKenzie talk about the concert above, or see our extended transcript below.

Gina:     You're about to have your last performance of this season. How has this season been?

Barbara: The season has been incredible. We started, of course, with Amit Peled and his cello orchestra, as it were, from Peabody. That was such a hit, and then we had the Schumann Quartett from Germany, which brought us a real European refined tradition. And then the last concert was Acronym, which was the most incredible, lively Baroque ensemble. They just blew everybody away with their Vivaldi Four Seasons because it was like Vivaldi amped up or something. They just had so much personality. And for the first time we really heard the dogs barking and the dancers getting drunk in the streets. They brought all of those little nuances out in the music. So it was incredible playing.

Now we have the last concert on Sunday, the 8th of April with the Calidore Quartet. They're already in residence at Lincoln Center and they just won an Avery Fisher grant, which Lincoln Center awards to outstanding ensembles and young artists. Every year they choose five of the top and Calidore has already hit the big time and they're really young. They are maybe 26, 27 years old, average age. We've already had them, they played at WHQR a year and a half ago in January of 2016 and people immediately said, “You have to have in the back.” They're just fantastic. And so they're bringing some of the war horses from Mendelssohn and Shostakovich and Beethoven, but they're also introducing Caroline Shaw to our audience, which I'm very excited about.

Caroline Shaw is the youngest Pulitzer Prize winning composer ever in the history of the Pulitzer Prize for Music. At 30 years old, she won the Pulitzer Prize. And she grew up in Greenville, North Carolina. We want to honor her and introduce her to our Chamber Music Wilmington audience because we are bringing her back to open the 2018-19 season and let her really have some time to interact in our community with our audience members and different events and master classes. The Guardian calls her “the future of classical music.” You see a headline that like that and you wonder what is behind that? Why would they say the future of classical music? That's a pretty big deal. She, I think, is one of the most authentic voices composing today, which is so striking right now, looking at the authentic voices that we're hearing in our country and how it is the authentic voices that are bringing us together as a country and her music embraces the history of American music in terms of our Gospel, our spiritual, our jazz traditions, but in such a fresh way that we're able to hear it and embrace the future.

Gina:     I'm hooked. When you say introducing, you don't mean introducing the actual person.

Barbara: Yes. She is such a genius, Gina. One of the compositions they're doing on the program in September looking ahead is In the Sweet By and By, which is a really old spiritual- or I don't know if we call it a spiritual- but it's an old hymn tune like a gospel hymn tune that I think Johnny Cash made famous and she sings with the quartet and then later in the program they will perform her compositions for string quartet and then to close the program she picks up her viola and plays the Brahms Viola Quintet. So she is a consummate musician whose compositions are just so original and fresh. One reviewer said, “Heck, you don't need a music degree to get the music of Caroline Shaw.” It is so heartfelt and authentic and original that it just speaks to everybody. I'm really excited to bring her here.

Gina:     Just so I understand, the woman is going to be here?

Barbara: The woman is going to be here. She's in her late thirties. She's now a visiting guest artist professor at Princeton and she's coming with the Jasper String Quartet that we all love that was here a year ago and were friends of hers and colleagues at the Yale School of Music when they were working on their master's degrees. So that relationship goes way back. In the meantime, Jasper has recorded a lot of her music. The Calidore- they're all good friends- they have recorded music of Caroline Shaw's and so it's just so great that they're introducing her music and then we hear her live in-person with more music in September. I thought it was really cool to have her sort of introduced this way. This is a taste. You're going to have more and meet the person and understand what her music is about.

Gina:     And so are they going to play her music?

Barbara: Calidore will perform First Essay; Nimrod, which is a piece that she wrote for them. She says it's a simple exercise in translating the lilt and rhythm of one of her favorite authors and she refers to authors a lot, and this time it's Marilynne Robinson. I don't know anything about Marilyn Robinson, but she said she writes beautifully and bravely on notions of the human soul, weaving delicately in and out various subjects in her rich, methodical essays. Caroline just loves the playing of the Calidore. When I hire musicians and look for musicians to come to play on our series, when I hear them I want my heart to be touched by their playing. I don't want to just hear an academically perfect performance. I really want to be moved and feel the passion and the composer's intentions through the artist. It's exciting to bring these young artists who really give it 200 percent and they look for original ways to present some of these amazing masterpieces that people can be very familiar with, but they bring such vitality and fresh blood that brings it alive for the audience.

Gina:     Do you have any hints about next season?

Barbara: Next year we're bringing, as I said, the Jasper String Quartet with Caroline Shaw performing works of Caroline Shaw and the beautiful Brahms Viola Quintet that we've never had on our season. The next ensemble is coming in November from Paris and it's Trio Karenine and it's named after Tolstoy's heroine, Anna Karenina. They've already performed in The Wigmore and the Louvre and in Berlin and in Beijing's Forbidden City and have gotten a lot of notoriety for their passionate, heart-felt performances. Then we have the Aizuri Quartet coming and they're going to be bringing new American works. So next year we have a thread of Brahms through the season and we also are looking at new American works that are inspiring because I think people get the impression sometimes that contemporary music is so cold and empty and has really nothing to say and it's really puzzling. So we're deliberately choosing works that are not that and are just written in the last few years so that we can see where the path of art music is going.

Gina:     Well, people said those bad things about all the people we love who are 500 years old, too, you know what I mean? Then it was like, “Oh, look at these young fools playing these horrible instruments.” 

When do season tickets go on sale?

Barbara: Season tickets will be on sale at the closing concert on April 8th. I just want to remind people that season tickets, whether it's for Chamber Music Wilmington or the symphony, are the basic way to support these organizations. Please don't run to your calendar, but say “Yeah, I want to be a member of that organization and be a basic supporter by becoming a season ticket holder.”

Gina:     And if you can't go to some of the concerts, give the tickets to someone else. It really should not even matter if you can make it or not.

Barbara: Yeah. Encourage your young adult neighbors and friends to check it out and to see what it is and encourage young musicians. We've had a real uptick in the number of young musicians attending our concerts, which is our goal because you really just can't learn to play the piano or the violin in a vacuum. It's so inspiring to come and hear these young artists who are so accomplished. It's better than a bunch of lessons sometimes to just hear what the instrument is capable of and it opens up young musician's imaginations in a huge way.

Gina:     Do you think you'll ever bring Acronym back?

Barbara: Absolutely. I can say this honestly, I'm not a big Baroque music fan, but they are just unbelievable. They play Baroque music the way I think it was played. It's not flat Baroque- so stiff- and they bring it alive in just such a way. I don't know how many times I've heard the Vivaldi Four Seasons, but I never heard it performed like that. You could hear people in the audience chuckling and you could feel the smiles and just the way they involved everybody in the performance. It was just fantastic.

Transcription Assistance by Production Assistant, Lindsay Wright