Carpe Diem is masterful in both classics and modern works
The Washington Post
Carpe Diem Quartet is masterful in both classics and modern works
By Robert Battey, March 17, 2013
The string quartet field is so crowded that every group is looking for some hook or cachet to set itself apart. A number of these quintessentially classical ensembles have branched out into pop, jazz, bluegrass and world music, with decidedly mixed results. Until Saturday evening, I had never heard a performance by one of these multilingual quartets where the classical repertoire was delivered at a level that was competitive with the finest traditional groups. But the Carpe Diem Quartet, appearing at the Dumbarton Church, was extraordinary.
The group was formed in 2004 and has gone through several personnel changes; its current lineup has been together less than a year. But the Carpe Diem’s performance of Beethoven’s Op. 59 No. 1 quartet (one of the hardest in the repertoire) had everything: care with dynamics and accents, timing of nuances, clarity of voice-leading and the widest ranges of character in each movement. This was one of the finest performances of a quartet standard I’ve heard in years.
And it was all the more remarkable because after the grinding blues of Bruce Wolosoff’s “5 O’Clock Shadow” and the dense passage-work of Joseph Kern’s “Iron City,” the Carpe Diem members had established only that they were fun and sexy — playing standing up, and taking full advantage of that physical freedom. But when it came time to deliver the most compositionally and emotionally complex music ever written, their imagination and instrumental skill took them to a different level entirely.
After intermission they offered “Fiddle Suite: Montana” by the group’s violist Korine Fujiwara. We’ve heard this sort of stuff before, from Mark O’Connor and others, but Fujiwara’s five-movement piece was expertly drawn and not a measure too long. Her own exuberant physicality drew her colleagues along in a winsome performance that had the staid Georgetown audience on
The Washington Post
Leshnoff CD review: June 2011
LESHNOFF: Violin Concerto (2005, rev. 2007). Distant Reflections (2003). String Quartet No. 1 "Pearl German" (2006).Charles Wetherbee (violin), Baltimore Chamber Orchestra/Markand Thaker, Carpe Diem String Quartet.Naxos 8.559398 (B) (DDD) TT: 56:34
A fascinating struggle between influence and ventriloquism. I tend to cling to an habitual pessimism, so I'm seldom disappointed and occasionally pleasantly surprised. At any rate, I found myself in a funk recently about the state of contemporary music, particularly compared to the heroic age of Modernism. The next Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Bartók, Hindemith, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Ives, Copland, Piston, Poulenc, Vaughan Williams, Britten -- ubi sunt? Then I heard this disk, which released a flood of memories of composers like Arnold Rosner, Jennifer Higdon, John Adams, Aaron Jay Kernis, Kenneth Fuchs, John Harbison, and even such lyricists as Michael Daugherty and Eric Ewazen, among others. After the Sixties and Seventies, which with few exceptions in my opinion consisted mainly of futzing around, I find myself at what I hope becomes the dawn of another rich musical age, where the next generation builds on the work of previous eras, including the futzing around, now turned to deep expressive purposes. Count Jonathan Leshnoff among the pleasant surprises.
Not that Leshnoff bestrides contemporary music like a colossus -- at least not yet -- but then again, he's still, I believe, in his thirties (for a composer other than Mozart, Mussorgsky, or Schubert, relatively young). All of these pieces to some extent exhibit the traits of a young composer trying to find himself. Distant Reflections points to Leshnoff's early interest in Renaissance and Baroque music. One might even call it his take on the Vaughan Williams Tallis Fantasia. Like that earlier piece, it divides the strings into ensemble (divided into as many as 23 parts), soloist, and off-stage quartet. Leshnoff also throws in a discrete piano, mainly for more color
Carpe Diem at the Asolo Theater
REVIEW: Carpe Diem String Quartet seizes the stage
By Gayle Williams, Herald-Tribune
Monday, April 4, 2011
One would have to search long and hard to find a more charming and enjoyable chamber music concert than what we experienced with the Carpe Diem String Quartet presented by the Artist Series of Sarasota. A number of elements contributed to this end result, not the least of which the superb musicianship of the four musicians. Beyond this basic mastery, there was the selection of music on the program and well, simply, their way of being on stage.
Music first. The standard canon of classics was represented by Felix Mendelssohn's last String Quartet in F minor, Op. posth. 80, which was darker and more solemn than anything I've ever heard by this normally happy fellow. This proved that Carpe Diem is a seriously talented quartet in the most traditional definition.
They opened with an appealing new composition, Septendecim (Seventeen), freshly minted just for them by Bradley Sowash. It was easy rolling, syncopated or folksy jazz with a quiet sense of fun. What's not to like?
Their flashy hot Czardas (yes, the tune that first comes to your mind when you think Hungarian) by Vittorio Monti was even spicier in the arrangement by Carpe Diem's violist Fujiwara. They gypsied it up and, because all but the cellist were standing, there was a fair share of expressive body movement to add visual appeal. It should be said that for some this is unnecessarily distracting from the music, but given the visual nature and MTV expectations of our younger audiences (under 40) this may be one way to spark interest.
The diversity of their program was geographic as well as stylistic. Carpe Diem's performance of Astor Piazzolla's Otoño Porteño(Autumn) from his Four Seasons of Buenos Aires (arrangement by Wetherbee) was so in character with the sharp accents, cicadas (bowing being the bridge) and all the color and pathos, that we may well have been at a milonga off Avenida Corrienties in the
Carpe Diem concert has audience shouting for more
The Washington Post
Carpe Diem concert has audience shouting for more
By Stephen Brookes, Published: June 24
It’s not hard to design a crowd-pleasing string quartet recital. You open with Haydn, toss in a little Mendelssohn or Brahms (maybe Debussy, if you’re daring), build up to one of the heftier Beethoven quartets and call it a day. It’s far more difficult to find fresh, pathbreaking new works that show how vibrant the quartet form still is — and that leave audiences on their feet and shouting for more. But that’s exactly what the aptly named Carpe Diem String Quartet did on Sunday night, in an adventurous and often breathtaking recital of modern music at the National Gallery of Art’s West Garden Court. Eclectic almost to a fault, the group ranged from jazz to Turkish dances to some of the hardest-hitting music of the 20th century, and built to a spectacular climax with the premiere of a quartet by composer Jonathan Leshnoff that was nothing less than exalting — a major addition to the string quartet repertoire.
The program opened and closed with some likable arrangements of the jazz standards “Take Five” and “Blue Rondo a la Turk,” but far more exciting was a suite of five new dances by Erberk Eryilmaz. “Miniatures Set No. 4” is a swirling, dervish-like explosion of a work, full of Turkish folk rhythms and bluesy bent notes and sudden yelps and shouts from the players. The excitement continued with Bela Bartok’s equally volatile Fifth String Quartet from 1934, whose landscapes of slashing chords and windswept wildness were brought off with white-hot intensity.
The quartet’s violist, Korine Fujiwara, is a composer as well, and her 2010 work “Hands” proved an enjoyable and smile-filled work, awash in soaring melodies, snapping fingers and inventive ideas. But it was Leshnoff’s String Quartet No. 4 that was the real event of the evening. From a base of modest musical motives (inspired, in part, by a recorder recital at his daughter’s school), the quartet built wi
The Washington Post
La Jolla "Anthenaeum"
La Jolla’s Athenaeum proves agreeable to vibrant Ohio string quartet
By James Chute - FEB. 15, 2011
There’s a reason they call it chamber music.
And music doesn’t get any more chamber than when its played in the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library’s intimate music room, where the energetic Carpe Diem String Quartet performed Tuesday as part of the Athenaeum’s Chamber Concert Series.
It’s hard to think about something that’s been around for 21 years as a secret, but the Athenaeum’s wonderful, slightly quirky, unpredictable programs are often overlooked in favor of higher-profile events presented by the San Diego Symphony and the La Jolla Music Society. They deserve more attention.
The Music Society “brings the world to San Diego.” The Athenaeum, with Carpe Diem, brought Ohio to La Jolla.
While the group’s claim to be “the Premier American ‘indie’ string quartet” may be overblown ... this is an accomplished ensemble with a distinctive sound and personality.
The first thing you notice about Carpe Diem, especially in a small space like the Athenaeum (it holds about 150 people including seats behind and to the sides of the musicians), is its robust but beautifully blended sound. Whether performing the Adagio of Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in F Minor or the opening movement of violist Korine Fujiwara’s “Fiddle Suite Montana,” the individual musicians sound as one. During several of the homophonic passages in both pieces, the blend between Wetherbee, second violinist John Ewing, Fujiwara and cellist Kristin Ostling, was so seamless it was hard to tell exactly who was doing what.
Then there’s the flexibility each musician brought to his or her individual line. While Wetherbee seemed to be enjoying himself and is anything but a reticent performer, the interpretations of Haydn’s Quartet in E-flat Major, the Mendelssohn and the “Fiddle Suite Montana” seemed to be conversations where each musician had an equal role.
Especially in Fujiwara’s delightful piece, which found the quartet
Arts Review: British Invasion
By Michael Kellerman, The Austin Chronicle?Friday, May 6, 2011
“What might have been a night of dry British music was instead delightfully fresh”
First Unitarian Universalist Church, Saturday, April 30
All eyes and ears were focused on Great Britain last week, as the Royal Wedding took our collectively short attention spans hostage with a continuous news cycle of the pageantry, pomp, and circumstance of celebrity. Clever then for the Austin Chamber Music Center to program an all-British concert at this time, ensuring its trademark pairing of chamber music and cultural relevancy.
The mood was mainly light and the dress casual for this last concert of the center’s 29th season, which kicked off with a bit of situational comedy from Artistic Director Michelle Schumann, setting up the evening with wit and flair. From a glance at the program, I couldn’t help but wonder at the outset if she was putting in the extra effort as a means of balancing a potentially dry musical offering: Ralph Vaughan Williams, Edward Elgar, and the little-known John Moeran. Though I wasn’t entirely wrong, the musical moments that followed offered some delightful surprises that dashed my stereotype.
Joining Schumann for the performance was the Carpe Diem String Quartet, which bills itself as “the premier American indie string quartet.” The quartet is exciting to watch, particularly violinist Charles Wetherbee, who is emotive and almost dances through his performances.
First up was Vaughan Williams’ “The Lark Ascending,” arranged by UT alum Rob Deemer, a touching work in the composer’s famously pensive, lyrical voice that features the first violin throughout. Wetherbee’s gorgeous, sweet tones captured the nostalgic mood of the piece, especially in the pastoral solo flourishes. Vaughan Williams’ use of pentatonic modality hinted at Asian inspiration in the opening moments, adding some exotic undertones to a balanced and lovely performance.
Next up was
A conversation: Issue 34:3 (Jan/Feb 2011) of Fanfare Magazine.
I spoke to violinist Charles Wetherbee before I received any of the Carpe Diem String Quartet CDs for review. Thinking I ought to have had some experience of the man and the group before talking to him, I set about some Internet research. Such is the miracle of the Web, there are plenty of little video clips and, if you can bear the sound from a computer, they give some tantalizing glimpses. There’s a remarkable arrangement for string quartet of the solo violin piece Czardas, the whole of Taneyev’s third quartet, a hoedown for string quartet improbably titled Peasebottom, and an extraordinary solo for violin that turns out to be called Strange Marinara. Of course, there is a backbone of classical works in the quartet’s repertoire. This breadth is unusual, but hardly unique. What seems to me unique about Carpe Diem is the purpose to which this diversity is put, as I found out.
Inevitably, I found the quartet’s Website. “‘A classical string quartet that?rocks?’ Yes! Carpe Diem String Quartet is quickly becoming the?premier American indie string quartet. ... The group’s musical passion has led them down the paths of Gypsy, tango, folk, pop, rock, and jazz inspired music, but the quartet is equally at home with the traditional string quartet repertoire.” One of the first questions I put to Wetherbee, first violin, was whether, by seeking to occupy many bases, the quartet simply risked missing all of them. “No, we don’t feel that is a danger unless we stray outside of musical worlds that we know intimately,” he said. “Beside our classical training, we have a background in folk and popular music that allows us to feel comfortable and knowledgeable as we perform in those genres. We arrange all the music ourselves, to ensure that it fits our own style and way of playing. And we work as hard on a Willy Porter tune as we would on Beethoven. All music demands precision, passion, and technical assurance, so we try to bring all of those qualities to everything we do. At times pe
Review of Montana Recording: Strings Magazine
Carpe Diem Quartet: Montana
Korine Fujiwara: Entangled Banks; Six Tasty Caprices for Solo Violin (Art Music Recording)
By Edith Eisler posted June 2011
The Carpe Diem String Quartet, in residence at Ohio Wesleyan University, must be one of the most adventurous groups of its kind. Evidently feeling that attention to living composers begins at home, the players have devoted this entire record to works of its own violist, and with performances of idiomatic empathy and infectious enthusiasm prove that she fully deserves their championship.
Partly of Japanese, partly American heritage, Fujiwara was born and raised in Montana, and grew up to love its spacious, majestic scenery, its rivers and flowers, its culture and way of life. Her music reflects all this in styles ranging from blues, country fiddling and dancing, cowboy songs, and jazz to serene Japanese folksongs. An accomplished violinist and violist, she knows how to exploit all the resources of string instruments alone and together; her quartet writing is very democratic, with solos for everyone; her solo violin writing is fiendishly difficult.
“Fiddle Suite Montana” depicts five favorite scenic spots with fast jazzy violin solos, rollicking and lilting dances, and slow dreamy sections. “Entangled Banks” describes five rushing streams and peaceful creeks. Of “Six Tasty Caprices” for violin solo, “Tangy” is notable for its tango-inflected rhythms and “Sweet Iris” for its yearning lovesickness.
Violinist Wetherbee, having played all the solos brilliantly and with a sure sense of style, exhibits a zestful, truly stunning virtuosity.
*This article appeared in Strings June 2011
Taneyev Volume 1 American Record Guide review
TANEYEV: Quartets l+3
Carpe Diem Quartet-Naxos 570437
In November/December 2007 I reviewed a set of Taneyev's quintets, not very charitably.
Though the performance by the augmented
Taneyev Quartet was admirable, I found the
music pedantic and predictable. These works
are a different story altogether.
Both works are early compositions, Op. 4
and Op. 7, and perhaps that is the key. Taneyev wouldn't be the first person to have the creativity burned out of him by the academy.
These compositions have freshness and passion, with consistently interesting and expressive themes worked out with inventive structures. The influence of his idol Tchaikovsky is apparent, though these are not blind imitations.
The Carpe Diem Quartet is in residence at
the Capital Conservatory of Music in Columbus, and they play magnificently. Beautiful tone, lots of Slavic passion, perfect ensemble-they are living proof that one need not be a part of a national tradition to perform it. This appears to be their first recording, and is presented
as Volume I of what I hope will be a