Melodies that move

Escher String Quartet continues Vanguard legacy

By Tara Pettit

Photo: Escher String Quartet will debut at Dayton Art Institute’s NCR Renaissance Auditorium as part of the annual Vanguard Concert series; photo: Laura Rose

It’s no secret that at the heart of Dayton lies deeply embedded ties to decades of cultural arts and music. Dayton continues its tradition of inviting such work into the area as it prepares for the arrival of the Escher String Quartet, performing as part of the 53rd season of the annual Vanguard Concert series at Dayton Art Institute.

Escher String Quartet, comprised of members Adam Barnett-Hart and Aaron Bo (violin); Pierre Lapointe (viola); and Dane Johnson (cello), has been touring internationally since 2005 and is increasingly making a distinctive impression throughout the United States and Europe, garnering high praise for its performances. Playing as Artists of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York, as well as becoming the BBC’s New Generation Artist from 2010-2012, the group is quickly making a name for itself and gaining critical acclaim for work like its three-concert series featuring the quartets of Benjamin Britten, which they most recently performed at concert halls such as Wigmore Hall and BBC Proms at Cadogan Hall.

As a fairly new group, the Escher String Quartet has worked hard in its time together, even becoming one of the very few chamber ensembles to be awarded the prestigious Avery Fischer Career Grant. The achievements are not without the full commitment required of an internationally renowned string quartet presenting some of the most complex chamber music of the greatest composers of our time, says quartet member Aaron Boyd, who has played in nearly every major hall in New York City and has won numerous competitions.

“Having done every possible job that a violinist can do with music, I have found that being in a string quartet is the most challenging, the most complex, and for those reasons also offers the greatest awards,” Boyd says.

Membership in Escher, as with any professional musical quartet for that matter, is like a marriage, Boyd explains. To play at the highest level, it requires that level of dedication and commitment.

“So, we are totally in it,” Boyd says. “We work every day, we work very hard, and we look into the future. We are working all the time; not just for the present, but also for the next ten years.”

The quartet is excited to debut in Dayton and to be involved in the Vanguard Concert series, which has brought more than 250 chamber music ensembles and soloists to Ohio.Previous touring groups, such as the renowned Julliard String Quartet, have attributed the Vanguard series at Dayton Art Institute to being a “home away from home in which groups can present their artistic message,” Julliard String Quartet member Joel Krosnick commented in an article commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Vanguard Concert series.

The series has a longstanding tradition of highest quality performances for the more than 50 years of its existence. The series’ prestige is a direct result of the aspirations creators Elana and Vince Bolling had in 1962 when they envisioned bringing the same music they loved and heard regularly in cities like New York to the Dayton area.

The Escher program will be divided into two halves with an intermission, beginning with a piece by Bedrich Smetana, titled Quartet No. 2 in D minor, Op. 131; which Boyd calls a “thrilling, passionate work.”

Following the Smetana piece is Quartet in E minor, Op. 121, composed by Gabriel Faure and which Boyd believes will be the highlight of the performance.

“I love all the works we are playing,” he says, “but to be honest, the Faure I can almost guarantee that no one in Ohio has heard in a long time. It is an extraordinarily beautiful and exquisite unique work of music.”

Part of what makes the Faure piece so intensely moving,” Boyd explains, “is that it was written by the composer just days before he passed. Faure, like Beethoven, was totally deaf by the end of his life.

“The piece has this amazing fantasy quality to it,” he says. “Like searching for color and harmony. It is so sophisticated, so beautiful … a very rare experience.”

The performance’s second half will be dedicated to and end with a piece by Franz Schubert titled Quartet in G Major, D. 887.

“Any note from Schubert is with the intent to move us at our deepest level,” he said. Following the concert, Escher String Quartet will engage in a meet-and-greet with the audience.

The upcoming Vanguard performance at Dayton Art Institute is one of many that Escher String Quartet will take across the world this year, with concerts scheduled in Slovenia, France and Korea. The group travels the world every year with extended tours in England and Europe. Dayton will be one of this year’s launch cities for the quartet’s world tour.

Elite chamber music performances by ensembles such as Escher String Quartet are unique offerings to the Dayton area directly tied to the sustainment of the Vanguard program over the years. Because of the Bollings’ determined efforts to continue the Vanguard Concert series at Dayton Art Institute, Dayton has been able to continue to expand its breadth and connection to world class music, while investing in a legacy as a historically and culturally rich arts region.

The Escher String Quartet will perform in the Vanguard Concert series on April 12 at 4 p.m. in the NCR Renaissance Auditorium at Dayton Art Institute, 456 Belmonte Park N. Tickets are on sale at Wright State University Center’s box office, Hauer Music Company and McCutheon Music Store or can be purchased by calling 937.436.0244. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students. For more information about the Vanguard Concert series, visit daytonartinstitute.org. For more information about the Escher String Quartet, visit escherquartet.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Tara Pettit at TaraPettit@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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