ROCHESTER, NY — It’s a rare occurrence, in any city: The chance to hear the complete Bartók String Quartets — there are six of them — in succession in one single concert. Yet that’s exactly what’s in store for chamber music lovers as six talented student quartets from the Eastman School of Music perform the demanding works in concert at 7 p.m., Monday, December 16, in Kilbourn Hall (26 Gibbs St.). The concert is free and open to the public.
This unusual “Bartók Marathon” is the culmination of an intensive course at Eastman offered for the first time this semester, which introduced 24 advanced chamber music students to the theory and practice of the music of Bela Bartók (1881-1945), the great Hungarian composer. The students explored the music of Bartók from a variety of standpoints, studying with theory professor Steve Laitz, attending master classes with viola professor John Graham, and being coached by the renowned Ying Quartet, Eastman’s quartet-in-residence. As part of their final project, each quartet is writing the program notes for the work they’ll perform in concert.
Composed over the course of more than 30 years (1907-1939), Bartók’s six string quartets are recognized as some of the most difficult ever written. Considered among the most significant works in the genre (along with quartets by Beethoven and Haydn) they represent the ultimate challenge for string quartets — a benchmark for performers who aspire to the highest levels. The quartets are extremely difficult to perform and analyze, yet are profoundly expressive.
“ This has been a monumental undertaking for all involved — especially the students, who are being stretched to their limits by this amazing music,” said Timothy Ying, first violinist of the Ying Quartet and co-chair of Eastman’s Chamber Music department. “This event promises to be an exhilarating experience for the performers and listeners alike.”