On April 17, the Parker Quartet – of two violinists, violist and cellist – will have an “intimate and intense” conversation with each other, the audience and an old friend, pianist Esther Park.
“Playing in a string quartet is both a very intimate and intense experience,” says Daniel Chong, Parker Quartet violinist. “The dynamic energy that this creates inside the group is constantly in a state of flux and transformation which is part of what makes playing string quartets so engaging.”
Parker Quartet, titled after the historic Parker House of Boston, will stage its musical discussion on Tuesday, April 17, at 7:30 p.m. in the Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church, Johnson City.
The first half will feature Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Quartet in B-flat Major and György Ligeti’s String Quartet No.1 “Metamorphoses nocturnes.” Park will join the conversation for the second half of the chamber concert for the Piano Quintet F minor by César Franck.
“Chamber music is part of the reason why I perform,” says Park, an assistant professor of piano at East Tennessee State University, whose “joie de vivre” at the piano keyboard has been lauded internationally. “I live for this music and I just absolutely love working with other musicians, since pianists are often on our own, practicing alone. It’s about that intricate playing … You no longer see the instruments. It’s just like four – or five – people conversing with each other.”
Park last performed with Chong when they were pre-teens in a Bowdoin Music Festival chamber ensemble. Recently, the pianist reconnected with the violinist through social media and colleagues at University of South Carolina’s School of Music, where Parker Quartet is Quartet-in-Residence – and the Johnson City collaboration was born and integrated into the Mary B. Martin School of the Arts’ spring schedule.
“We hope this will be a special treat for everyone involved,” says Anita DeAngelis, director of the Martin School of the Arts at ETSU. “We are hosting another Grammy-winning group – one of three this spring, getting to hear our own Dr. Park perform with them and connecting the artists with our piano students and ETSU’s growing strings program.”
In 2011, Parker Quartet’s recording of Ligeti’s complete works for string quartet won the Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance. The ensemble’s performances have been called “flawlessly balanced and perfectly tuned,” by The New York Times and praised for its “fresh approach” by The Denver Post and “spectacular sense of urgency” by The Boston Globe.
Park calls them “superstars” among contemporary ensembles and “fearless” in their creative programming. “They are basically the foremost in our generation of string quartets,” says Park, who holds master’s and doctoral degrees from the Yale School of Music.
Joining Chong, an original member, in Parker Quartet are cellist Kee-Hyun Kim, also a founding member; Jessica Bodner on viola; and newest Parker Quartet member, violinist Ken Hamao. Chong, Kim and Bodner all hold degrees from the New England Conservatory in Boston, while Hamao earned a doctorate of Musical Arts from the Juilliard School.
The ETSU/Johnson City program is one of those conversations that run the gamut – beginning with a classical era Mozart quartet, moving to the avant garde, contemporary Ligeti work and closing with romantic composer Franck.
“Having Mozart and Ligeti Quartet No.1 on the same program somehow makes sense to us,” Chong says. “Mozart crafted his works with an incredible mixture of clarity, thought and creative energy and Ligeti was no different. His first quartet is one of the most tightly constructed works heavily influenced by the past, yet somehow retaining a wholly individual voice.
“Not nearly as popular as the ones written by Dvorak, Brahms and Schumann, Franck’s quintet is a powerful, moving work that exemplifies French romanticism.
“Simply put, the Mozart is incredibly elegant and beautiful, the Ligeti will blow you away and the Franck is one of the most dynamic works written for this combination of instruments.”
Park likens this program to “a smart mother sneaking in kale between bites of chocolate chips and before you know it, a Mozart junkie could find a new world in Ligeti.”
Like Park, the members of Parker Quartet strive to convey and translate for concertgoers the unique “language” of chamber music composers. “People aren’t really sure what to expect from a chamber music concert,” Chong says on the Quartetville blog.
“You have four people coming into a room as equals. That environment promotes a lot of passion, a lot of discussion, a lot of compromising. But, ultimately, when you reach something together as equals, it’s incredibly rewarding.”
For more on Parker Quartet, visit http://www.parkerquartet.com. For more on Esther Park, visit https://www.etsu.edu/cas/music/faculty_staff/parkej.php.
For more information about ETSU’s Mary B. Martin School of the Arts or to purchase tickets, visit www.etsu.edu/martin or call 423-439-TKTS (8587). Tickets are $20 for general admission, $15 for seniors 60-plus and $5 for students of all ages.