Meet the newest member of the Juilliard String Quartet
The venerable Juilliard Quartet has always played “new” music with as much conviction and beauty of sound as it does the classics of the string quartet repertoire. Founded in 1946, it has had just 13 members in its 65-year history. Among the quartet’s extraordinary landmarks, it was the first American quartet to perform all six of Bartok’s string quartets as a cycle, later recording them three times. Last season, the 1963 set was re-released thanks to an agreement with Sony and ArchivMusic, and is available on ArchivMusic.com and iTunes.
The Juilliard’s discography of more than 100 releases includes, besides Bartok, the late Beethoven Quartets, complete Schoenberg quartets and those of Debussy and Ravel — all garnering Grammy Awards. This year — 25 years after its Bartok recordings were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, the Juilliard was honored with the Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award — the only classical music ensemble ever so honored.
Recently, the quartet participated in the 9-11 Tenth Anniversary memorial ceremonies in New York. As you will see from the interview, below, they will be performing a work in Cincinnati that they performed on that occasion.
You can witness the beginning of, perhaps, the next 65 years, when the Juilliard Quartet opens Chamber Music Cincinnati with a new first violinist, Joseph Lin, 8 p.m. Tuesday in Corbett Auditorium at the University of Cincinnati’s CCM.
(Tickets: $25; cincychamber.org or brownpapertickets.com or by calling 859-581-6877)
Lin, 32, founding member of the Formosa Quartet, winner of numerous awards, including a Presidential Scholar in the Arts, recently joined the other members of the Juilliard Quartet — violinist Ronald Copes (Quartet member since 1997), violist Samuel Rhodes (1969), and cellist Joel Krosnick (1974).
We asked Lin a few questions about himself. The program the quartet will perform: Stravinsky’s Three Pieces for String Quartet; Janacek’s Quartet No., 1 and Mozart’s Quartet in A Major, K. 464.
Question: Where were you born, and how did you become interested in playing the violin as a child?
Answer: I was born in Memphis, Tennessee, and raised in the suburbs of New York. It was my parents who initiated my musical studies at a young age.
Q: As an established soloist as well as a teacher, why did you decide to take on the demanding role of first violinist of the Juilliard Quartet?
A: Some have remarked that it was an offer I simply couldn’t turn down. I might not put it as bluntly, given that I spent a lot of time thinking through the many factors involved; but in the end, the opportunity to learn from such fine artists and shape the future of this great ensemble is one that I have wholeheartedly embraced.
Q: How has your life changed since you joined the quartet?
A: Leaving the beautiful natural surroundings and our wonderful friends in Ithaca, NY (where I had taught at Cornell for the past 4 years) was a difficult decision to make. Life in Manhattan is certainly very different, but my family has been making the adjustment and enjoying what city life has to offer.
Q: What are rehearsals like for you and your colleagues?
A: In rehearsals with the quartet, I continue to be amazed at my colleagues’ commitment to making each encounter (with the music, each other, and our audiences) alive and meaningful. In discussing a passage, at first I may raise a question rather tentatively, not wanting to pose an outright challenge to long held musical convictions; but quickly, I realize that the quartet never takes any interpretation (however accustomed they may be to it) for granted. In verbal as well as musical communication, we are constantly exploring new ways to make the music we play more convincing and relevant to us and our listeners.
Q: What was it like for you to perform in the recent commemoration of the 10th anniversary of September 11?
A: Taking part in the September 11th concert last week was a chance to share the powerful emotions contained in music, as each of us individually reflected on how the events of ten years ago have changed our lives. We performed the Janacek First Quartet (which we will also be playing in Cincinnati); the Tolstoy narrative aside, this particular piece of music, with its passionate outcries and moments of solemn and melancholy reflection, seemed especially meaningful on this occasion – a time in which words so often come up short.