The 18th season of Virginia Commonwealth University's ever-impressive Mary Anne Rennolds concert series opens this year with a visit by one of this country's great musical treasures: The Juilliard String Quartet.
Known widely as the "first family" of chamber music in the United States, the Juilliard String Quartet spent 40 years inside the Beltway as the Library of Congress' quartet-in-residence, and 55 years at the Julliard School. Founded in 1956 as that school's quartet-in-residence, the group is composed of three long-time veterans: violist Samuel Rhodes, cellist Joel Krosnick, violinist Joel Smirnoff (32, 27, and 15 seasons respectively) and one relatively new member, violinist Ronald Copes (only four seasons so far). According to violist Rhodes, in recent years "the sound has deepened and broadened." Longtime fans of the quartet will find "an even greater range of depth and beauty." Krosnick adds, "perhaps, the sound has gotten lovelier. We still go after a lot of intensity. We are still concerned about contrasts in styles between the old and new, but we feel more opulence of sound."
On Sept. 22, they bring a program typical of their repertoire, including masterpieces that span three centuries and musical movements in Mozart's Quartet in B flat major (K. 589), Schubert's Quartet in G major (D. 887) and Bartok's final String Quartet No. 6. "In our concerts, we want to show the different styles of quartet writing," says Rhodes. "We are willing to take risks with our performance. We tend to exaggerate the emotion. Our goal, is to re-create the music on the stage as if its being born at that moment."
"All the pieces [in our Richmond concert] are fascinating in completely different ways," adds Krosnick. "Through Mozart's quartet one of the last he wrote he revolutionized the quartet and the cello repertoire and gave the cello a unique floating and lyrical sound."
The Bartok 6th, Krosnick claims, features the composer at his best, "The quartet has a sadness that the audience may find overwhelming." And the Schubert, continues Krosnick, "is a monument with tremendous integrity and structural strength."
"All of us have inside something that sings. None of these pieces will live if we don't perform and get the audience to ride on our shoulders," says Krosnick. "Understanding that message is what the Juilliard String Quartet is all about." S
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