The Tesla Quartet is known the world over for their “superb capacity to find the inner heart of everything they play, regardless of era, style, or technical demand” (The International Review of Music). From cutting edge contemporary works to established masterpieces, the Tesla Quartet’s emotive and thoughtful interpretations reveal the ensemble’s deep commitment to the craft and to their ever expanding repertoire. The quartet recognizes the power of their platform to amplify underrepresented voices and to encourage the proliferation of an equitable and just future for society as well as a hospitable climate for posterity.
Now entering its second decade, the quartet performs regularly across North America and Europe, with recent highlights including their debut at New York’s Lincoln Center, a return to London’s Wigmore Hall, and performances at Stanford University’s Bing Concert Hall as winners of the prestigious John Lad Prize. Other recent international engagements include tours of Brazil, China, and South Korea. Notable festival appearances include the Banff Centre International String Quartet Festival; the Joseph Haydn String Quartet Festival at the Esterházy Palace in Fertőd, Hungary; the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Festival in Germany; and the Festival Sesc de Música de Câmara in São Paulo, Brazil. Having served as the Marjorie Young Bell String Quartet-in-Residence at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, Canada from 2016-2017, the Tesla Quartet also recently completed a four-year community residency in Hickory, North Carolina that included performances and workshops at local colleges, universities, and in the public school system, as well as a dedicated chamber music series.
Remaining true to their ethos, the Tesla Quartet has proved unwavering and resilient in the face of global depression. From the safety of their own homes, they overcame technological hurdles in order to cheer on the healthcare heroes of the New York Presbyterian Hospital network with weekly concerts throughout the city’s darkest hours. Addressing the needs of those within the music community, the Quartet commissioned 12 works by composers from across North America for their online series Alternating Currents, an homage to Beethoven and a celebration of diverse voices. Tesla Quartet has also helped pioneer ImmerSphere, an immersive augmented reality virtual concert experience, bringing familiar community stages directly into the homes of concert-starved audiences. With renewed hope for a brighter future, the Tesla Quartet is focusing its efforts in the coming seasons on inspiring climate action with the commissions of several full length works for string quartet that touch on different aspects of the climate crisis and recovery, in addition to premiering Jeff Nytch’s piece decrying deforestation, Song of the Lorax.
In 2018, the Tesla Quartet released its debut album of Haydn, Ravel, and Stravinsky quartets on the Orchid Classics label to critical acclaim. BBC Music Magazine awarded the disc a double 5-star rating and featured it as the “Chamber Choice” for the month of December and Gramophone praised the quartet for its “tautness of focus and refinement of detail.” They released their second disc on the Orchid Classics label in October 2019, Joy & Desolation, a collaboration with clarinetist Alexander Fiterstein featuring quintets by Mozart, Finzi, John Corigliano and Carolina Heredia. The Classic Reviewraved, “From the outset, the quartet plays as a single instrument. Their sound is balanced across registers, their timbres and articulations matched" and The ArtsFuse called it “a compelling, diverse album from one of the best chamber ensembles (and clarinetists) out there.”
The Tesla Quartet builds upon years of early success at numerous competitions including multiple top prizes at the prestigious 2016 Banff International String Quartet Competition, 2015 International Joseph Haydn Chamber Music Competition, and 2012 Wigmore Hall London International String Quartet Competition. The group originally formed at The Juilliard School in 2008 and quickly established itself as one of the most promising young ensembles in New York, winning Second Prize at the J.C. Arriaga Chamber Music Competition only a few months after its inception. From 2009 to 2012, the quartet held a fellowship as the Graduate String Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Colorado-Boulder, where they studied with the world-renowned Takács Quartet. They have also held fellowships at the Aspen Music Festival’s Center for Advanced Quartet Studies, the Britten-Pears Young Artist Program, and the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival.
The Tesla Quartet is Ross Snyder (violin), Michelle Lie (violin), Edwin Kaplan (viola), and Austin Fisher (cello). Learn more at www.teslaquartet.com.
Alistair Coleman – Moonshot
Beethoven – Molto adagio from String Quartet in E minor, Op. 59, No. 2, “Razumovsky”
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Bobby Ge – Celeste Forma
Garth Knox – Satellites
“Though free to think and act, we are held together, like the stars in the firmament, with ties inseparable. We cannot see these ties, but we can feel them.” –Nikola Tesla
From the moment our ancestors first gazed up at the night sky, humanity has been fascinated with the heavens. The idea that the movements of heavenly bodies created universal harmonies—musica universalis—was both a scientific and spiritual belief propounded by great thinkers from Pythagoras to Keppler. While composing the slow movement to his E minor String Quartet, Op. 59 No. 2, Beethoven is said to have been “contemplating the music of the spheres.” With Moonshot, Alistair Coleman commemorates the 50thanniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, charting the journey from Earth and back. In Celeste Forma, Bobby Ge explores the birth of stars, from nebulous collections of space dust to the violent and energized phases of development that ultimately end up as a fully-formed star. Using the concepts of orbit and circular motion, Garth Knox employs unconventional and original instrumental techniques to create unique sound worlds in his quartet, Satellites.
Mozart – String Quartet in D Major, K. 575 “Prussian”
Paul Wiancko – Strange Beloved Land
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Jessie Montgomery – Strum
Bacewicz – String Quartet No. 4
This program focuses on four composers who have drawn on their intimate knowledge of their instruments as world-class performers in order to create uniquely personal string quartets.
Mozart of course was renowned for his abilities at the keyboard and on the violin, but his true love was the viola, which he often played when he joined his contemporaries Haydn, Dittersdorff, and Vanhal for string quartet readings. His three “Prussian” quartets, however, feature the cello, a choice designed with the cello-playing Friedrich Wilhelm II, King of Prussia, in mind.
Cellist Paul Wiancko spent three years with the Harlem Quartet early in his career, and his musical output shows his affinity for the medium. His Strange Beloved Land is a collection of six miniatures inspired by the life and work of his father and documentary filmmaker, Gene Wiancko. The music, often built on grooves and incorporating unusual string techniques, reflects his experience as a performer of a variety of modern musical styles outside the traditional classical repertoire.
As a former member of both the PUBLIQuartet and Catalyst Quartet, New York-based violinist and composer Jessie Montgomery has dedicated much of her career to expanding the boundaries and possibilities of the string quartet. Often incorporating improvisation and contemporary string techniques, her music blends folk idioms from many traditions with a modern sound that feels distinctly American. Strum, as the title implies, makes use of a variety of plucking techniques, making the quartet feel more like a “band” than an “ensemble.”
Polish composer Grażyna Bacewicz spent the first half of her career as a violinist before shifting her focus to composition. Having studied violin with Carl Flesch and composition with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, she developed a compositional style that embraces the idiomatic traditions of string playing. Not only is her String Quartet No. 4 full of beautiful melodies and colorful textures, the music feels tailor-made for its performers.
Adrian Sims – New work for string quartet
Caroline Shaw – The Evergreen
Alexandra Gardner – New work for string quartet
- Intermission -
Jeffrey Nytch – For the Trees
The two works by Alexandra Gardner and Adrian Sims were commissioned by The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland for the Tesla Quartet’s immersive, augmented reality project entitled “Rising Tides,” which addresses the challenges the Chesapeake Bay region faces in the current and coming climate crisis.
“Speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues,” wrote Dr. Seuss in The Lorax. This sentiment is at the heart of For the Trees, an interdisciplinary production using music, sound design, lighting, visual imagery, spoken word, and educational resources to raise awareness and inspire action around the issue of deforestation and the destructive ways it contributes to climate change. Inspired by Nytch’s visit to the clear cut forests of Vancouver Island, For the Trees evokes the personal connection we all have with our own environments.
Caroline Shaw’s The Evergreen shares a similar origin to For the Trees, as the music was inspired by the composer’s encounter with an old, scraggly tree in British Columbia. Shaw paints a musical portrait of this tree, imbuing it with a personality and treating it with the reverence these ancient living things deserve