The Miró in conversation about the Quartet Archive Project:
Living music - by John Largess
For the Miró Quartet, our 25th anniversary is a chance to look back on our past as an ensemble as well as on our connections to the great lineage of string quartet music - and performers - that we are so lucky to be a part of. This is truly a living tradition: live music passed down directly through time, first from composers to performers, then to their students from generation to generation. We were lucky to be taught by some of the great artists of the preceding generation, with connections back to the very beginnings of our art form. We feel grateful to be a link in a long line of great performers, inspired composers, and dynamic and diverse audiences. Our job now is to keep bringing this music to life, and to pass it on.
This is living music.
This isn't a changeless, mummified tradition: the music, how it's played and how it's received, changes through time. Every age and era have a distinct character and definitely leave a mark on this great repertoire we call the string quartet.
The purpose of our Quartet Archive Project is to celebrate that past and to bring it to life for you. We are recreating three time periods of chamber music in the United States, focusing on three pioneering American ensembles and three truly great American chamber-music halls. Perhaps you know these ensembles, perhaps you've never heard of them; either way, what they've contributed to the musical world we live in today is immeasurable.
To bring these time periods to life for you, we are playing three actual programs from the past, as near as possible to how they were heard then - in the same order, with the same pauses and intermissions. Though some of the repertoire is standard, much is not, and for all three the repertoire and program arrangement is sometimes surprising, and often very different from what today's audiences might expect. The Kneisel Quartet, for example, believed very strongly in the living composers of their time, and played many individual movements by living composers on their programs; the Flonzaley loved to pair great standard repertoire with popular songs and encores, and had an extremely diverse audience. The Kolisch felt that Beethoven could be experienced like contemporary music, and contemporary music could be listened to like Beethoven. We feel that each of these programs we have chosen captures the special and unique character of the ensemble that played it and the particular flavor of their time, and reveals to us in a new way the depth and complexity of the pieces we play.
As a quartet we want to tell the stories of the music we love: we want to know not only the origin stories of each piece, and the composers who wrote them, but the living stories about the performers and audiences that have interacted with and shaped these works through time. This is a narrative of richness and variety that holds many surprises. We hope you'll hear some new music that's unfamiliar to you, and some familiar music in a totally new way.
These three Archive Program snapshots represent just a small part of each of our total musical stories - and all three are a part of what makes all of us in music, whether performers or listeners, exactly who we are today.