salem and thanks

Charles Noble, Fumino Ando, Pansy Chang, and Shin-young Kwon backstage at the Salem Library, Sunday, April 9, 2017.

Today we played our annual concert on the Salem Camerata Musica series at the Salem Public Library. We were originally scheduled to play at the end of January, but I needed to attend to my mom’s affairs following her passing on January 26th. George Struble, director of the series, kindly found a new performance date for us, which we all appreciated very much. It was strange to revisit a program that was all ready to go in late January at the beginning of April. Luckily, everyone kept the pieces in their fingers, and things went together pretty quickly, all things considered. I’m so grateful to my wonderful colleagues, Shin-young Kwon, Fumino Ando, and guest cellist Pansy Chang, for being flexible in the face of a family crisis, and for playing so beautifully today. This wraps up our 2016-2017 season. We’re not sure what’s in store for next year, but watch this space for announcements coming at the end of the summer. Thank you for your support!

upcoming performances & guest cellist

We’ve got two wonderful performances coming up that we think you’ll enjoy very much! The first is on Sunday, January 22nd at 2pm at the Chapel at Mary’s Woods in West Linn. If you haven’t been there, you really owe it to yourself to experience music performed in this amazing acoustic, which is also visually stunning as well. We’ll be playing David Ludwig’s celestial composition, String Quartet No. 1 “Pale Blue Dot”, which was inspired by the journey of the Voyager spacecraft out of our home solar system. It involves a bit of choreography on the part of the quartet, which also makes it a very unusual piece! It is written in an accessible, tonal style, and audiences have loved it when we’ve performed it previously. The remainder of the program is taken up by Dvorak’s last string quartet, the Quartet No. 14 in A-flat major, Op. 105. It is a gorgeous quartet that is inexpliably not played all that often. Tickets and information about the Mary’s Woods concert series is available here:

The following weekend (Sunday, January 29th at 2:30 pm), we’re in Salem, performing our nearly annual concert for the Camerata Musica series, which we absolutely love. We’ll be playing Anton Webern’s early Langsamer satz (slow movement), which is written in a highly Romantic style, before he began his experimentation with atonality and the 12-tone method of composition. After that, we’ll be playing two big quartets: Beethoven’s C-sharp minor quartet, Op. 131, and the Dvorak Op. 105. Two very different quartets from two great composers at the tops of their compositional games. Camerata Musica concerts are free admission for all. Info is available here:

Finally, our regular cellist, Heather Blackburn is unable to perform these two concerts with us, but we were able to secure a splendid substitute that may be familiar to some of you.


Pansy Chang was once a member of the cello section of the Oregon Symphony, and who subsequently joined the Portland band Pink Martini and had a university teaching career in Ohio for over a decade. It’s quite a task to learn and re-learn repertoire with a substitute player, but Pansy is more than up for the challenge (as are we) and we’re happily working up these two concerts for you!

Here is some more information about Pansy:

Pansy Chang, violoncellist, has performed in North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East as a soloist, chamber, and orchestral musician.  She has appeared with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and Chamber Music Northwest, on Bob Sherman’s “Listening Room” – WQXR New York, and in both the Yale University Spectrum Series at Weill Hall and the Yale Faculty Artist Series in New Haven.

Associate Professor of Violoncello at Miami University of Ohio from 2001-2016, she has recently returned to the Portland, Oregon area.  Prior to joining the Miami University music faculty, she served for two years as Assistant to Professor Aldo Parisot and Lecturer in Violoncello at the Yale University School of Music, and for four years as a member of the Oregon Symphony.

Concerto appearances include performances with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, DC, the Oregon Symphony, and many regional orchestras in the Washington, DC and Portland metropolitan areas.  Ms. Chang also performs with the Portland, Oregon-based band, Pink Martini, whose appearances with orchestra include performances with the Boston Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

An avid pedagogue, she has given master classes at the Beijing Conservatory in China and Yale School of Music, and has served on the faculties of the Marrowstone Music Festival and the Chicago Suzuki Institute.

Ms. Chang was awarded a Fulbright Grant for study in the United Kingdom, and was a semi-finalist in the Leonard Rose International Cello Competition.

Ms. Chang earned her Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees at the University of Southern California and Yale University School of Music, respectively, and principal teachers include Aldo Parisot, William Pleeth, Eleonore Schoenfeld, Evelyn Elsing, and Susan Kelly.

Pansy Chang can be heard on the Pink Martini albums, as well as on recordings of works by Ezra Laderman and Martin Bresnick, released by Albany Records, and works by Ben Wolfe, released by Amosaya Music and Planet Arts Recordings.

beethoven’s greatest quartet?

This week and next, we’re taking on Beethoven’s Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp minor, op. 131. This seven movement quartet – played without pause from beginning to end – is thought to be Beethoven’s own favorite quartet, and it was performed for Schubert (at his request) on his deathbed. It’s a work that demands so much of an ensemble, and starting the slow, melancholy fugue that begins the work is much like being strapped into an inexorable amusement park ride – once you start, you can’t stop. Not until you reach the double bar at the end.

Many performers think that the op. 131 quartet is Beethoven’s greatest composition for string quartet (as did Richard Wagner). I’m not going to dispute that assertion. It is clearly his most experimental and fantastic quartet (he wrote that it had “less lack of imagination than before”). Understatement of the year, by Herr Beethoven! There are many reasons for this admiration and respect, and I’ll share some of mine here.

Emotional range. This quartet starts with a slow fugue that has as its subject a musical motive that might be best described as despairing. It bravely tries to rise by three notes, then heavily sags down in defeat. It has all the intellectual rigor you’d expect of a fugue, but none of that matters. The air of sadness pervades the movement. It’s immediately followed by the first of two scherzos in the quartet, and it couldn’t be any more different, cleverly set up by a unison C-sharp that evaporates into the a most effervescent D major. The massive set of variations that makes up the third movement encompass an entire world of emotion in its pages. Perhaps most stunningly, the final movement takes us from C-sharp minor to C-sharp major, with a breathtaking coda that somehow manages to convey triumph, resignation, and fierce defiance all at once – while still bringing back the basic materials of the fugue that opened the quartet over 30 minutes earlier. Amazing!

Difficulty. This is one of the supreme tests of a string quartet. Intonation is tested by the keys which allow very little use of open strings, and so provide little resonance to the harmonies. Part writing is intricate and constantly shifting – no one plays an entire melody in the piece, melodies start in one instrument and end in another, often passing through several instruments in succession before their conclusion. There are, as in many of Beethoven’s compositions for strings, many passages which just don’t work well for the instruments. Beethoven says: Too bad!

Risk and reward. It pays to try to take things to their utmost with this quartet. The quality of sound shouldn’t be sacrificed, but passages like the beginning of the last movement should just rage like a wild animal. It’s that pitting of elegance against brutality that really gets to the heart of what Beethoven is playing with in his last compositions. It went on to profoundly influence Shostakovich (who wrote 15 quartets of his own) and Bartók, to name just a few.

Please join us at the University of Portland Mago Hunt Recital Hall on Wednesday, November 2 at 12:30 pm for our free concert of Webern and Beethoven. [map]

new season, new music (mostly)

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Photo: Rachel Hadiashar

We’ve just added our concerts for the upcoming season, and as our individual schedules get ever more packed, we’re working on consolidating our repertoire so that we don’t have quite as much music to learn and rehearse. We’d love to do more, but we must also pay the bills, too!

We’re doing two major works this year, Beethoven’s Quartet No. 14 C-sharp minor, Op. 131, and Dvorak’s great final quartet in A-flat major, Op. 105. Our two smaller scale works will be Anton Webern’s Langsamer satz, and David Ludwig’s Pale Blue Dot.

classical up close with arnica

We’re excited to play on the Oregon Symphony musicians’ series Classical Up Close for the first time this year, and we’re bringing David Ludwig’s Pale Blue Dot with us!

Here we are in our refresher rehearsal for the piece earlier this week (click photos to enlarge).

Photo: Rachel Hadiashar
Photo: Rachel Hadiashar
Photo: Rachel Hadiashar
Photo: Rachel Hadiashar

We hope to see you there!

May 3, 2016 at 7:30 p.m., Lake Grove Presbyterian Church 4040 Sunset Dr, Lake Oswego.

Free admission and open to the public! #upclosepdx

pale blue dot


We’re excited to present a fantastic new piece by David Ludwig to our Salem audience next month (click here for details).

The genesis of his String Quartet No. 1 “Pale Blue Dot” arose from David’s musing on the Voyager I mission, which produced one of the iconic images of mankind, which became known popularly as the Pale Blue Dot photo.

You can see the earth contained in the circle above (click on image to enlarge).

One of the other aspects of the Voyager I mission was to send a collection of images, sounds, music, and information about the human race. Among these was a recording of the Cavatina movement from Beethoven’s String Quartet in B-flat major, Op. 130, played by the Budapest String Quartet. There is a brief, spectral quotation of the beginning of the Cavatina in this new quartet.

Of local interest to chamber music fans, Pale Blue Dot was written for the brilliant Dover String Quartet, which has been in residence at Chamber Music Northwest the past few seasons. Below is a recent performance of Pale Blue Dot by the Dover Quartet at the Curtis Institute of Music, where they are the quartet-in-residence.

You can read much more about Ludwig’s inspiration and composition of this new quartet on his blog.

Two concerts added for Winter 2016

We’re excited to get our 2015-2016 season to its belated start! We’re doing two performances in February and March, with a possible third if a suitable performance space is found.

On Wednesday, February 3, 2016, we’ll play on the University of Portland’s Music at Midweek series at the Mago Hunt Recital Hall. The concert is free to the public, and begins at 12:30 p.m., and lasts just under an hour. See our Upcoming Concerts page for more information. We’ll be performing Beethoven’s very first completed quartet, the Quartet in D major, Op. 18 No. 3. Then we’ll conclude the concert with Shostakovich’s String Quartet No 2 in A major, Op. 68.

On Sunday, March 13, 2016, we’ll be in Salem, Oregon for the Camerata Musica series at the Salem Public Library. This concert is also free to the public, and begins at 2:30 p.m. We’ll play the Beethoven and Shostakovich quartets mentioned above, and conclude the concert with David Ludwig’s Pale Blue Dot, a wonderful piece which begins in a very surprising way! You might even say it’s out of this world…