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Author: Jill Kimball

Calidore String Quartet brings youthful energy to CU Boulder

The New York-based group plays two concerts in Grusin Hall Sept. 25 and 26.

This fall, the young, energetic and highly esteemed Calidore String Quartet visits CU Boulder for two performances in Grusin Music Hall, part of an on-campus chamber music series hosted by the resident Takács Quartet. The New York-based ensemble performs on Sunday, Sept. 25 and Monday, Sept. 26.

Described as “the epitome of confidence and finesse” (Gramophone Magazine) and “a miracle of unified thought” (La Presse, Montreal), the Calidore String Quartet has established an international reputation for its informed, polished and passionate performances. The quartet was appointed to the prestigious roster of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center Two for the 2016-2019 seasons, has won grand prizes in virtually every major U.S. chamber music competition, and recently captured top prizes at the ARD Munich International String Quartet Competition and Hamburg International Chamber Music Competition.

Violinist Ryan Meehan says he and his colleagues were inspired to form the Calidore by none other than the Takács Quartet, an internationally famous string ensemble that has been in residence at CU Boulder for more than 30 years.

“We went to the Aspen Music Festival together, and at that time, the Takács were the quartet in Aspen,” Meehan says. “We went to all of their concerts, and after hearing a particularly good one, we thought to ourselves, ‘How cool would it be to make this our career?’”

And make it their career they did, but not without help from first-class mentors such as the Emerson String Quartet, France’s Quatour Ébène, a scholar in Madrid and a “quartet Yoda” in Montreal. Meehan believes they’ve become all the better for their many international treks.

“We have coached with a lot of different people from different musical backgrounds, and as a result I think the we have an open-minded approach and curiosity when exploring music and different styles that really sets us apart from other quartets,” Meehan says.

True to this season’s Ludwig van Beethoven theme, the Calidore will perform works by Mendelssohn, Dvořák and Bartók that show a strong Beethoven influence.

“Everybody who decided to take up the string quartet realized that they would be asking for a direct comparison to what Beethoven had accomplished,” Meehan says. “Yes, Hadyn was considered the father of the quartet, but Beethoven broke all the rules and ushered in a whole new movement of musical writing. Even today, some of his music sounds so modern.”

What all three of these composers have in common, Meehan says, is that they found success composing chamber music using their own distinct musical voices—even with the shadow of Beethoven looming over them. For Mendelssohn, the recipe for fame was one part Beethoven and two parts optimism and charm. For both Bartók and Dvořák, success came with chamber compositions paying homage to the folk music of their homelands.

“These composers imbued the string quartet genre with their ethnic backgrounds, with the music they knew best, and expanded the repertoire in a really meaningful way,” Meehan says.

Remarkably, this music remains meaningful today, more than a century later. Meehan has a theory as to why.

“The string quartet is an artistic expression of universal experiences,” he says. “It mimics conversations, emotional interplay between people and other types of interpersonal interactions.”

And you don’t need any musical background to hear, and be impressed by, what Meehan calls the “fifth sound”—that moment when all four instruments unite in thought and become one.

“No one in my family is a musician, but when they come to our concerts, they ask me, ‘How did you make it sound like one being?’” he says. “People may not always be able to articulate what they hear, but they notice it.”

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