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 in its 16th season, 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 recent global issues. 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 virtual concerts throughout the darkest hours of the pandemic. Addressing the needs of those within the music community, the Quartet commissioned 12 works by composers from across North America in 2020 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 works for string quartet that touch on different aspects of the climate crisis and recovery, in addition to premiering Jeff Nytch’s multidisciplinary work decrying deforestation, For the Trees.
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 Review raved, “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.
Grażyna Bacewicz – String Quartet No. 3
Grażyna Bacewicz – String Quartet No. 7
Grażyna Bacewicz – String Quartet No. 4
Our first encounter with the music of Polish composer Grażyna Bacewicz was in 2019 when we were invited to play her Fourth and Seventh Quartets at the Bard Music West Festiva in San Francisco. From the first notes of our first rehearsal we were hooked, and we knew that we wanted to do a complete cycle of her quartets. She was a gifted violinist from a young age and became one of Poland’s most respected and admired performers and teachers. While she composed throughout her career, it became more of a focus during the second half of her life.
The Third and Fourth Quartets, written in 1947 and 1951 respectively, share a similar musical language but are perfect foils to each other: the Third is bright, open, and joyous, while the Fourth is brooding and melancholy, reminiscent of the type of moody tone of film noir. The Seventh and final quartet, from 1965, just a few years before Bacewicz’s death, represents a stark departure from the composer’s earlier style. Whereas her earlier quartets are harmonically lush and melodic, the Seventh embraces a more experimental style, with quirky chromatic figurations and unusual instrumental techniques creating an atmosphere of fleeting ideas.
Part 2 of this cycle is slated for the 2025-26 Season, but presenters who wish to program the entire seven-quartet cycle for the 2024-25 Season may inquire about availability.
Webern – Langsamer Satz
Mozart – String Quartet No. 14 in G major, K. 387
Schubert – String Quartet No. 15 in G major, D. 887
One of the hallmarks of Schubert’s music is his ability to slip almost imperceptibly between major and minor tonalities. His final string quartet, No. 15 in G major, inhabits a multitude of harmonic worlds almost simultaneously, and the breadth of the work creates a space to take in the vast expanse of the composer’s imagination. While the quartet has many of the melodically mellifluous qualities of his other works, it also features outbursts of starkly contrasting harmonies that border on disorienting, begging the question, is the work really in G major, or G minor?
Mozart’s G major Quartet, K. 387, by contrast, is unabashedly sunny and playful. One of a set of six quartets dedicated to Haydn, the work’s themes are quirky and effervescent and feel designed to elicit giggles from the listener. More brooding is the single-movement Langsamer Satz of Anton Webern that opens the program. This darkly lyrical work is one of only a few lush Romantic pieces by the composer better know for his terse serialism of the Second Viennese School.
Haydn – String Quartet in E flat major, Op. 33 No. 2, “The Joke”
Bacewicz – String Quartet No. 3
Dvořák – String Quartet No. 10 in E flat major, Op. 51
Good humor seems to define this program of works. Ever the musical prankster, Haydn enjoys pulling a fast one on the audience in the finale of his Quartet in E flat major, Op. 33 No. 2 “The Joke,” and to be honest, we do too! Grażyna Bacewicz’s Third String Quartet is imbued with a sense of optimism and almost childlike wonder that we find particularly infectious. Dvorak’s Quartet No. 10 in E flat major is full of charming Bohemian folk themes that feel like a warm embrace. Even in the sorrowful “Dumka” elegy, the composer can’t help but break out into a lively dance to break the tension.
Garth Knox – “Geostationary” from Satellites (2015)
Alistair Coleman – Moonshot (2019)
Terry Riley – Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector
Beethoven – Molto adagio from String Quartet in E minor, Op.59 No.2, “Razumovsky”
Bobby Ge – Celeste Forma (2020)
“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 50th anniversary 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. Finally, in Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector, Terry Riley explores the mysterious universe beyond our waking consciousness.
The musical selections on this program will be accompanied by poetry about outer space, read by members of the quartet.
In addition to the full-length program, a 60-minute version can also be configured for concerts without an intermission.
A passion for education has been a cornerstone of the Tesla Quartet's mission since the group started in 2008. The Tesla Quartet offers a variety of programs for students and community members of all ages that are designed to inspire a love for music and a deeper understanding of the great works in the repertoire.
For more information, visit https://www.teslaquartet.com/education.
The Tesla Quartet's 40-minute presentation for grades K-5 focuses on an introduction to string instruments and the fundamentals of making music as a group. Depending on the size and age of the audience, our program may include the following topics:
The Tesla Quartet can work with your school's string students in a number of fashions, including:
String Ensemble Coaching
More advanced string students can benefit greatly from the Tesla Quartet's guidance on stage or in the classroom. Quartet members can work with string students in:
College Audition Preparation
For students who are seriously considering studying music in college, the Tesla Quartet can facilitate discussions on topics such as:
School-wide Assembly: Music in Context
The Tesla Quartet also offers programs that are part performance, part discussion, featuring a complete work for string quartet. Past presentations have featured works by Shostakovich, Janáček, and Kevin Puts, with a focus on the historical, literary, or social context.
The Tesla Quartet can plan three-day visits in the fall and spring semesters where they work with students on pre-selected repertoire, culminating in a performance with the Tesla Quartet joining the student ensemble.
CURATION & COLLABORATION
The Tesla Quartet will present a specially curated series of concerts over the course of a week, semester, or year, focusing on a specific composer or musical theme. Examples could include:
For a more intimate and in-depth exploration of a single piece of music, the Tesla Quartet will discuss the history, analysis, and their unique interpretation of a work from its repertoire. The audience will be invited to join in the discussion with questions.
Faculty & Student Collaboration
With enough lead time to rehearse, the Tesla Quartet will expand its forces to collaborate with students faculty in larger works of chamber music that could appear on the quartet's full recital.
Student chamber music groups are invited to present a single movement or complete work in public performance and receive feedback from members of the Tesla Quartet. Topics the Tesla Quartet likes to focus on include conveying the character of the music, historical approaches to style, and how to be open and engaged with your partners.
For residencies of more substantial length, members of the Tesla Quartet can provide multiple coachings to chamber music groups that are able to rehearse frequently and incorporate coaching ideas into their development, whether it is over the course of a week or a semester.
Discussion on the Art of Ensemble Playing
While music students are often taught to focus on the technical aspects of their individual playing, a solid instrumental foundation is not enough to achieve success as an ensemble. The Tesla Quartet will lead a discussion with students and faculty about what it means to play chamber music, how to give and receive criticism, and address ideas such as openness, awareness, and empathy.
Student Composition Workshops
The Tesla Quartet is committed to fostering the growth of young composers. The quartet can host reading sessions for students' string compositions and provide feedback in areas of technique, balance, notation, and score preparation.
Performance & Recording
With enough lead time, the Tesla Quartet will prepare a selection of student compositions for performance, with the option to produce a live recording of the performance. If the school is equipped with the appropriate space and equipment, the Tesla Quartet can also record selected student works in a studio-like session.
Orchestra Coaching & Side-By-Side Performance
Members of the Tesla Quartet have a wealth of orchestral experience as performers from full size groups like the Cleveland Orchestra to small, self-conducted chamber orchestras like A Far Cry and The Knights. The quartet can provide coaching for string sections and even sit in with the orchestra for rehearsals or performances.
Self-Conducted Chamber Orchestra
The Tesla Quartet believes that the principles of chamber music can apply to any ensemble, no matter its size. For a residency of significant length, the quartet can lead a self-conducted chamber orchestra of advanced students, with regular rehearsals leading to a performance.
Competitions and orchestral auditions can play a big part in the careers of young performers, and there is an art to successfully navigating the rigorous demands of these performances. Through coachings or master classes, the Tesla Quartet can provide feedback on orchestral excerpts and guidance on choosing repertoire, practice routines, and how to manage audition day.
With such a varied professional landscape ahead of them, many music students wonder how they will carve out their career path after graduation. Whether through round table discussions or workshops, the Tesla Quartet can address topics like grant writing, ensemble management, artistic vision and planning, fundraising, social media and engaging with your community.
“I am impressed with the group’s ability to both play and interact well with students. They used effective questioning, seemed to know what was developmentally appropriate for children in second grade, and reinforced great vocabulary. Oh, and they are amazing musicians as well!”
— Dr. Jennifer Griffin, Principal, Oakwood Elementary School, Hickory, NC
“I loved witnessing the diversity of experiences of professional classical musicians, looking at different avenues after graduation. Additionally, I have tremendously enjoyed being able to hear such an exceptional quality of music being performed here and being able to interact with the quartet members informally and as part of our academic courses.”
— Undergraduate music student, Mount Allison University
“Classroom visits have been incredibly useful this term, and the members of the quartet have been so generous with their feedback on student compositions-in-progress. The members of the quartet are able to work with students at their varied, individual levels of ability while at the same time pushing students toward greater musical excellence and creativity. My students have definitely produced stronger work than usual this year due, in large part, to the feedback and inspiration they have received from the quartet.”
— Kevin Morse, Professor of Composition, Mount Allison University