In the second episode of Opus 3 of the The Counterpoint Club, R-E-S-P-E-C-T, we explore how to work with your colleagues in a respectful and constructive manner. Sarah explores how Haydn wrote parts that were more equal in interest across all four voices in his Opus 20 string quartets. In the technique segment, Willie outlines strategies that will allow all members of an ensemble to feel respected and their ideas heard. This episode kicks off a three-part series of interviews with the members of the world-renowned Lafayette String Quartet, who are based in Canada and are in residence at the University of Victoria in British Columbia. Our Skyros Chat in this episode features a conversation between Brandon and Willie.
In the history segment, Sarah talks about the first set of string quartets written in a true egalitarian style: Franz Joseph Haydn’s Op. 20 “Sun” quartets. The Op. 20 quartets are notable for their individual parts and the way the instruments interact by passing the melody between them.
Here is a recording of the Danish String Quartet performing the Op. 20, No. 2 in C Major, which is the first quartet to feature a completely unison passage between all four voices:
The Brentano Quartet has written many wonderful blog posts about the Haydn string quartets. You can find the complete Haydn Archives from Brentano Quartet on their website.
This is a series of all of the movements from String Quartet Op. 20, No. 3 in G minor, recorded by St. Lawrence String Quartet in Bing Concert Hall at Stanford University:
In the technique segment, Willie discusses the method that Skyros uses to try everyone’s musical ideas in a respectful manner that removes individual egos from the rehearsal process. This worksheet provides a more detailed look at the steps you can use in rehearsal to effectively incorporate ideas and suggestions from everyone in your ensemble.
- Step 1: Live, Breathe, Die – Live, breathe, and die for every suggestion like it was your own. Reserve any judgement of an idea until Step 3.
- Step 2: Try, Try, Try – Try and workshop as many ideas as you can, still reserving comparison of ideas until Step 3.
- Step 3: Decide and Agree – Discuss which idea works best and pencil it in your part.
For Opus 3, the Skyros Quartet has invited the wonderful Lafayette String Quartet to join in a round table style discussion with all members of both ensembles. This wonderful conversion will be divided into three segments over the course of episodes 2 through 4. In this first segment we have questions from Willie and Sarah.
In July 1986, four young musicians, based in Detroit and just beginning their professional careers, performed together for the first time as the Lafayette String Quartet. Today the LSQ continues to flourish with its original personnel: violinists Ann Elliott-Goldschmid and Sharon Stanis, violist Joanna Hood, and cellist Pamela Highbaugh Aloni.
For five years, the LSQ remained in Detroit, where its members taught at the Center for Creative Studies/Institute of Music and Dance and at nearby Oakland University. Meanwhile, the LSQ itself received coaching from two of the world’s most esteemed quartets—the Amadeus and the Alban Berg—and from the violinist Rostislav Dubinsky, of the legendary Borodin Quartet, who served as the women’s “musical mentor” until his death in 1997.
The LSQ’s extraordinary musicianship was recognized early on. Already in 1988, it was ranked among the magazine Musical America’s “Young Artists to Watch,” and in its first years it won the Grand prize at the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition and prizes at the Portsmouth (now City of London) International String Quartet Competition, and the Chicago Discovery Competition. As winners of the 1988 Cleveland String Quartet Competition, the LSQ had the opportunity to study for two years with the Cleveland Quartet at the Eastman School of Music, in Rochester, New York.
In 1991, the four women became artists-in-residence at the University of Victoria’s School of Music, in British Columbia—positions they still hold today. They received honorary doctorates from University Canada West and were honored with the inaugural Craigdarroch Award for Excellence in Artistic Expression in 2010 from the University of Victoria.
Besides teaching and performing (alone and with many colleagues) at the university, the LSQ makes a significant impact on the city of Victoria, through concerts—for instance, serving as section leaders of the Galiano Ensemble—and outreach activities, including advocating for music in public schools and administering the annual Lafayette Health Awareness Forum, founded in 2006.
The LSQ has performed across Canada, the United States, Mexico and Europe, with concerts often allied with masterclasses and workshops; they had a close and lasting relationship with the University of Saskatchewan, in Saskatoon while playing on the set of Amatis owned by the institution. They have collaborated with distinguished colleagues including bassist Gary Karr, clarinetist James Campbell, flutist Eugenia Zukerman, violinists Andrew Dawes and Gary Levinson, violists James Dunham, Atar Arad, and Yariv Aloni, Cellists Paul Katz, and the late Tanya Prochazka. Pianists including Luba Edlina Dubinsky, Jane Coop, Robert Silverman, Ronald Turini, Stéphane Lemelin, Alexander Tselyakov, Baya Kakouberi and Flavio Varani. They often collaborate with other string quartets including the Saguenay (Alcan), the New Zealand, the Penderecki, the Molinari, the Emily Carr, and the Quarteto Latinoamericano.
The four women also maintain separate careers as solo and chamber-music performers, teachers, and adjudicators.
The LSQ carries a large, wide-ranging repertoire, from the classical period to the present, and has commissioned music from (and in some cases collaborated closely with) composers including Murray Adaskin, John Burke, Justin Haynes, David Jaffe, R. Murray Schafer, Eugene Weigel, and Kelly Marie Murphy. They have performed the complete Beethoven Cycle, during the 2000-2001 season, the quartets of the Second Viennese school with the Molinari Quartet in 2013, and in celebration of their thirty years together, the quartet performed the complete cycle of string quartets by Dmitri Shostakovich in the 2016-17 season.
Since 1990, the LSQ has released CDs on the Dorian, Centrediscs, and other labels (including its own). Its discography includes major quartets by Borodin, Debussy, Grieg, Shostakovich, and Tchaikovsky; Dvořák’s piano quintets (with Antonin Kubalek); and four CDs of music by Adaskin, for his AdLar label. Its 2002 CBC Records disc Death and the Maiden, featuring music by Schubert, Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel, and Rebecca Clarke, won the Western Canadian Music Award for Outstanding Classical Recording. It recorded Michael Longton’s Almost Nothing Like Purple Haze for the 2011 CD Jimi Hendrix Uncovered, and has recently released a CD together with Alexander Tselyakov of the quintets of Dmitri Shostakovich and the newly commissioned quintet Motion and Distance, by Canadian composer Kelly- Marie Murphy.
The LSQ is the subject of David Rounds’ book The Four and the One: In Praise of String Quartets, and a documentary film to be released in the new year entitled Creating Harmony.
Have you tried to Live, Breathe, and Die for your ensemble’s ideas? Let us know, by leaving a comment! We’d love to hear from you!