Chiara String Quartet
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Chiara String Quartet


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"Indeed while their sexy reading of Frank's "An Andalusian Walkabout" glimmered, shook, and dolefully sang as needed, it was the biting Bartñk and languorous, soulful Brahms that stole the show."

-- Daniel Felsenfeld, Strings Magazine

"The presentation catered to the expectations of a pop-music audience; individual movements were offered piecemeal, the exception being the whole of Shostakovich’s devastating Eighth String Quartet, played here with endearing intensity. Condescension was not on the program, which mixed and matched hard-driving pieces by Jefferson Friedman and Pierre Jalbert with Mozart, Haydn, Brahms and lighthearted Latin American music by Gabriela Lena Frank."

-- Bernard Holland, New York Times

"superb quartet...."

-- Allan Kozinn -- New York Times

"...this tightly knit ensemble brings single movements of quartets from Beethoven onwards. If they play anything from Gabriela Lena Frank's exciting South American folk music-inspired Leyendas, which they premiered and recorded, there should be dancing."

-- Marc Geelhoed, Timeout Chicago

"Each young artist marries a nimble technique to eager-to-please intensity and unhackneyed joy."

-- The Washington Post

"The New Voice Singles series is [the Chiara's] own attractive way of bringing new works to the attention of the CD-buying public . . . I hear nothing to suggest that this performance [of Robert Sirota's Triptych] is anything less than definitive."

-- Fanfare, Raymond Tuttle

“[Shostakovich’s 8th Quartet] is a de profundis, a cry from the depths, and the darkness helped focus attention on the music, and on the fact that the Chiara played it very well, soft edges not muting its pained intensity.”

-- The New York Times, Anne Midgette

"The Chiara Quartet gave these works luminous performances, underlining the sweet-toned character of Ms. Frank’s score and the mystery and exoticism of Mr. Zhou’s work. But the best performances were searing accounts of the Bartok and Golijov pieces, for which the players produced a tone that ranged from glowing warmth to hard-edged acerbity, which each of these searing works demands."

-- -- New York Times

""The music [Robert Sirota's Triptych] is powerful and evokes the emotions of 9/11 . . . and the Chiara Quartet plays [it] with feeling and virtuosity.""

-- American Record Guide, David Moore

"The Chiara's no-holds-barred approach was most effective in Jefferson Friedman's Quartet No. 3 (a world premiere). The players sustained this cinematically atmospheric score with masterly conviction, organizing the loose strands into a convincing dramatic whole and realizing a host of unusual sounds and textures with both gusto and finesse."

-- The Strad, Andrew Farach-Colton

“. . . the Chiara String Quartet never, figuratively speaking, broke a sweat. You don’t realize how accustomed you are to hearing symptoms of labor in a string quartet until they’re not there. And with the Chiara quartet, they are not. It was almost eerie.”

-- The Philadelphia Inquirer, David Patrick Stearns

". . . the award-winning foursome clearly has what it takes to make a lasting impression in the chamber music world."

-- The Baltimore Sun, Tim Smith

“The Chiara String Quartet . . . grew up from the grass roots and represents a fresh voice for one of the world’s great musical traditions. This award-winning group of musicians–all in their late 20s–blends new and traditional repertoire and old-fashioned stage appeal to win followers in a young generation largely untutored in the ways of European art music.”

-- The Journal Star (IL)

“[The Chiara String Quartet] is not a chamber ensemble that simply takes their place on stage (with all the pomp and dignity usually associated with performers at this level) and plays a piece of music. This is an ensemble that performs. Music comes alive and vibrates across the stage from one performer to another, one instrument to the next.”

-- Valley City Times-Record (ND)

"The quartet will be playing its latest recorded piece, “Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout,” as well as movements by other contemporary composers, including Jefferson Friedman, who was influenced by, among other groups, the post-punk rock group Fugazi."

-- -- The Journal Star

"They’re among the pioneers who are making it acceptable for great music to be played anywhere."

-- Fargo Forum, Fargo, ND


Season Highlights

• New Ballet Choreographers at Miller Theater in New York (September 2006)
• Mestizaje: Harmony of Differences at Merkin Hall in New York (January 2007)
• Love, Life, and Spirit: The Chiara Quartet and Friends Celebrate the Music of Brahms in Lincoln, NE (Spring 2007)
• Club Tour to various U.S. cities (Fall 2007)


• Quintets for Clarinet and Strings with Håkan Rosengren | Round Top Records (RTR 15; 2006)
(Johannes Brahms, Quintet in B Minor, Op. 115 & W.A. Mozart, Quintet in A Major, K. 581 - CRITICAL ACCLAIM

"Press Reviews"

Experimental, bold approach enlivens Chiara 4’s Beethoven

By Jeremy Eichler
Globe Staff
The Boston Globe
February 13, 2010

String quartets tend to celebrate major anniversaries by tackling the Everest of their repertoire, that is, the complete cycle of 16 Beethoven String Quartets. That there are actually three ensembles scaling these heights in the Boston area this season should not take away from the significance that a Beethoven cycle carries in the life of an individual group, especially when it is a maiden voyage.

That is the case this season for the Chiara Quartet, a young and rising ensemble that currently holds a Blodgett residency at Harvard University. The group is marking its tenth anniversary and the 25th of the Blodgett residencies with its first Beethoven cycle, spread over two seasons. The second program in this series took place last night at Paine Hall and featured a quartet from each of Beethoven’s early, middle, and late periods.

The abundant skill and commitment this group brings to its music-making was clear from the opening quartet, Op. 18, No. 3, dispatched with both vigor and sensitivity. The evening’s highlight was the massive hurtling fugue that closed the second work, Op. 59. No. 3. This is perhaps the most adrenaline-laced six minutes of music in the entire string quartet literature, and the Chiara upped the stakes by choosing a very brisk tempo. But they held it together with highly virtuosic, edge-of-the-seat playing that brought the movement across as the viscerally thrilling ride it is.

Being the group’s very first cycle there were, naturally, several places where this performance stood to deepen and grow. The ear yearned for a wider palette of sonorities, though the Chiara was at points trying.

For the slow introduction to Op. 59, No. 3, and again in the majestic slow movement of Op. 132, the evening’s closing work, the Chiara experimented with scaling back its vibrato or doing away with it altogether. The deglossed sound was striking, but the effect was undermined in part by slight tuning imperfections.

The unusually slow tempo chosen for the famous “Heiliger Dankgesang’’ also did not play in the group’s favor. More generally, as this cycle progresses, the Chiara would do well to sharpen the differences in its interpretive approach to the music of the early, middle, and late periods to highlight the true scale of what is, as these players clearly know, an epic journey.


Chiara String Quartet to play Strathmore, National Gallery of Art shows
By: Emily Cary
Special to the Examiner
October 11, 2009

Drop into a favorite bar or club, and you may be entertained by the Chiara String Quartet. Nothing pleases the award-winning ensemble more than opportunities to spark enthusiasm among skeptics of chamber music. Equally at home in more formal settings, the artists in residence at Harvard University and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln debut at the National Gallery of Art and the Music Center at Strathmore.

Violist Johan Sirota speaks for his colleagues, violinists Rebecca Fischer and Julie Yoon and cellist Gregory Beaver, when he confirms their passion for performing both classical and contemporary works in public spaces. All met at the Juilliard School of Music where they studied, taught and were mentored by the illustrious Juilliard String Quartet.

"Even though our teachers were committed to a classical music tradition that goes back hundreds of years, we've learned that people today are ready for new experiences," he says. "This interesting journey began when we were doing outreach concerts in places like schools and nursing homes and became disillusioned by the schism that divides the audience from the musicians on stage.

"Some people come to concerts prepared, while others may have anxiety in a concert setting, but they all come to bars and clubs to relax, hang out with their friends and enjoy the serendipity. Our goal is to break down the proscenium by talking with the audience and playing a variety of music that invites conversation."

Their program for the National Gallery of Art focuses on the exhibition "The Darker Side of Light: Arts of Privacy, 1850-1900." In contrast to the bright and merry artistic works typical of those associated with Paris, London and Berlin during the last half of the 19th Century, the collection of prints, drawings, book illustrations and small sculptures encompasses melancholic and ominous subjects often hidden in grim, ghoulish recesses.

"Although Debussy is known as an impressionist and his 'String Quartet in G minor' is a beautiful, light-filled piece, we chose it because it reflects his association with symbolist poets like Charles Beaudelaire whose work deals with the dark interior landscapes of the soul," Sirota says. "Prokofiev's 'String Quartet No. 1' delves into the interior human emotions while Webern's 'Five Pieces for String Quartet' wa - Press

"Press Reviews"

Classical picks

By Roy C. Dicks
News & Observer
September 5, 2008

The chamber music season starts off with a triple crown performance by the dynamic young Chiara String Quartet as the sole group for this year's September Prelude, an event co-sponsored by the three main Triangle chamber music presenters. The quartet has made a name for itself in both traditional classical works and in contemporary compositions. The name is the Italian word for "clear" or "pure."
Tonight, in UNC's Memorial Hall on the Newman Artists Series, the four put their name to the test with Chinese composer Zhou Long's "Song of the Ch'in," Prokofiev's first quartet, and the Brahms Sextet No. 1 (with assistance from violist Anton Jivaev and cellist Bonnie Thron, both principals in the N.C. Symphony).
Saturday night, in Duke's Nelson Music Room for the Chamber Arts Society series, the four play two Mozart quartets (K. 428 and 465, "Dissonant") as well as works by Prokofiev and Bartók.
Sunday afternoon in Fletcher Opera Theater on the Raleigh Chamber Music Guild series, the quartet brings a wide-ranging mix of works by composers who are influenced by more than one culture, from Gabriela Lena Frank's "Leyendas - An Andean Walkabout" and Osvaldo Golijov's "Yiddishbbuk" to the Zhou Long piece and Bártok's String Quartet No. 2.
On Thursday, in celebration of the "El Greco to Velázquez" exhibit at Duke's Nasher Museum of Art, Robert Parkins gives a harpsichord recital of early Spanish works by Antonio Cabezón and Juan Bautista José Cabanilles (sometimes called the Spanish Bach). The free program is held in the museum's auditorium.


Classical quartet part of younger generation

By Phillip Crook
The Daily Tar Heel
September 5, 2008

For those who say classical music is dying, September Prelude counters with the poster child for a younger generation of musicians.

The four members of the Chiara String Quartet are in their early 30s, and while that may not sound very young, violist Jonah Sirota said most quartets have spent decades performing together.

"We're not young in the sense that we're new to this, but our perspective is generational," Sirota said. "If we're the new young face of classical music, then we're down with that."

Presented by Carolina Performing Arts, Duke Performances and the Raleigh Chamber Music Guild, September Prelude's fifth year demands a large repertoire and stamina from the quartet.

The concert today in Memorial Hall is the first of three in the Triangle this weekend, each offering listeners something new each time.

Tim Carter, chairman of the music department, said today's program is a particular treat for audience members with its inclusion of a piece by a cutting-edge Chinese-born American composer.

"It's quite a coup for us to have this piece," Carter said. "It's deeply rooted in different traditions to produce a very post-modern, complex image. It places the whole program in a new context."

Zhou Long's "Song of the Ch'in" fuses Eastern and Western styles to create an imitation of a Chinese folk instrument by plucking on the strings of the viola, violin and cello.

Music professor Richard Luby said the Chiara String Quartet is admired for championing alternative and contemporary music.

"They're known for bringing music to new venues, like clubs and restaurants, but in a classy way," Luby said.

Sirota said part of the reason to perform in such venues is to appeal to younger audiences and introduce classical music to them where they feel more comfortable.

The remaining two pieces on the program are three movements by Prokofiev and a Brahms sextet, which Sirota said nicely juxtapose one another.

He said the Prokofiev is emotionally ambiguous and runs the gamut from excitedly quick to contemplatively slow to defy audience expectations.

The Brahms sextet, on the other hand, gratifies an audience member's anticipations with its meaty Romantic style.

The quartet will be joined by Anton Jivaev, principal viola, and Bonnie Thron, principal cello, of the N.C. Symphony for the Brahms piece.

"The real focus is on this collaboration," Sirota said. "When you get together with other people who love music it's like meeting a kindred spirit. I think that comes across in the music."


Quartet brings classical music to masses

Go Triad

When Jonah Sirota, violist of the Chiara String Quartet, was a kid, he hated the way classical music was portrayed in music videos.

"You would always see this music video where classical music would be playing at some party when some hair metal band came in, broke up the party, and stole the girl," Sirota says. "That was the stereotype of the old, rich people music, and how the band would come save the day and change it."

Now that most of the hair metal bands have disbanded, it's the Chiara S - Press

"Press Reviews"

Chiara Quartet continues excellence in Sheldon series

By John Cutler / For the Lincoln Journal Star

The Chiara Quartet continued its presentation of Beethoven string quartets Tuesday evening for the "Tuesday Nights at Sheldon" Hixson-Lied Concert Series presented by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln School of Music.

The three quartets heard Tuesday were the "String Quartet in F Major," Opus 18; the "String Quartet in F Minor," Opus 95; and the late period "String Quartet in E-Flat Major," Opus 127.

Chiara players are young and it is now spring, so no wonder the first movement of the F major quartet had such a brisk pace. Violinist Rebecca Fischer kept that pace with a steady hand on it all.

Nice tempo-bending in the slower second movement paved the way for cohesiveness in the Scherzo, and by the time the allegro finale had breezed by, the group's effort had won hearts in the house.

Chiara kept up the pace for the "Serioso," last of the "middle" period quartets.

Alluring bowing of the second movement's second theme by violist Jonah Sirota was key to marketing this section to the 150 patrons in the Abbott Auditorium.

Then Chiara poured on the schmaltz for the first part of the final movement, bending phrases and milking longer notes. It was a stark contrast to the final three minutes of the work, which jetted by with super speed.

Stamina and drive were to be the keys to success for executing the imposing E-flat major quartet.

The long, taxing adagio second movement was an exercise in teamwork. Everyone traded off the melody phrases beautifully.

The scherzando required precision, and the quartet answered with an amazing response. Difficult rhythms seemed a trifle for this well-molded ensemble.

The finale required more of the same drive. A real crowd-pleaser was Fischer's perfection with the highest notes, pushing the edge with razor-sharp intonation. Immediately at the work's conclusion the crowd stood and cheered.

A postscript: After his concert at the Lied Center for Performing Arts on Sunday, cellist Yo-Yo Ma eagerly awaited visiting with the quartet, embracing them with praise for their work. It was a tribute to the Chiara Quartet's marked growth at UNL.

Especially notable is the maturing of violinist Fischer.

She has immersed herself in the quartet genre with notable progress the past four years. - Press


Chiara String Quartet
Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout
by Gabriela Lena Frank
New Voice Singles -- CNVS 002

Quintets for Clarinet and Strings
Chiara String Quartet and H�kan Rosengren
Mozart and Brahms Quintets
Round Top Records

Chiara String Quartet
by Robert Sirota
New Voice Singles -- CNVS 001




Playing "Chamber Music in Any Chamber," the *Chiara String Quartet *(Rebecca Fischer, Julie Yoon violin; Jonah Sirota, viola; Gregory Beaver, cello) reaches from the concert hall into clubs, bars and galleries, expanding the places to hear live classical music while returning chamber music to its roots in intimate spaces. Described by the “Seattle Post-Intelligencer” as "vastly talented, vastly resourceful, and vastly committed to the music of their time," the Chiara is also continually finding new meaning within pieces from the well-established quartet canon. Their style is best described as a nonstop journey to the edge of expressive possibility: "luminous," "searing," (“New York Times”) "soulful," "biting," and possessing a "potent collective force" (“Strings Magazine”).

The Chiara Quartet was recently named the Blodgett Artists-in-Residence at Harvard University, a post they begin in the fall of 2008, in addition to their ongoing artist residency at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Recently awarded with the Guarneri Quartet Residency Award for artistic excellence by Chamber Music America, the Quartet’s other honors include a top prize at the Paolo Borciani International Competition, winning the Astral Artistic Services National Audition, and winning First Prize at the Fischoff Chamber Music Competition.

In addition to performing in concert halls such as Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall, Philadelphia's Kimmel Center, and Harris Hall in Aspen, Colorado, the Chiara devotes much of its performance season to reaching new audiences through concerts in non-classical venues. The Quartet has performed at Caffe Vivaldi in New York's West Village, Kansas City’s The Brick, Houston’s Mucky Duck, and Chicago’s The Hideout, among many others.

Internationally, the Chiara Quartet has performed at the American Academy in Rome, and recently completed a critically-acclaimed eight-city tour of Sweden with clarinetist Håkan Rosengren. In May 2009 they will make their debut in Munich, performing “Different Trains “by Steve Reich at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität as part of “Crosscurrents: American and European Music in Interaction, 1900-2000.” Other highlights of the current season include four concerts in Boston and Cambridge as part of their Harvard residency, including a performance of music banned in the former U.S.S.R. with soprano Lucy Shelton; several concerts at Columbia University’s Miller Theater in New York, performing Mozart’s Six “Haydn” String Quartets; and concerts in Chicago, Houston, and St. Paul.

Recent collaborators of the Chiara Quartet include Joel Krosnick, Roger Tapping, Todd Palmer, Simone Dinnerstein, Norman Fischer, and Paul Katz, as well as members of the Orion, Ying, Cavani, and Pacifica Quartets. The ensemble has premiered works by Gabriela Lena Frank, Jefferson Friedman, Michael Wittgraf, Randall Snyder, and Nico Muhly, among others.

The Chiara discography includes the Mozart and Brahms clarinet quintets with Håkan Rosengren for SMS Classical, and the world premiere recordings of Robert Sirota's “Triptych” and Gabriela Lena Frank's “Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout” for the Quartet’s own New Voice Singles label. In 2007 the Chiara recorded Jefferson Friedman’s Second and Third Quartets, and they are currently at work recording the complete string quartets of Brahms for SMS Classical.

The Chiara Quartet has been artists-in-residence at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln since 2005. In the summer, they are in residence at Greenwood Music Camp, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Chamber Music Institute, and the Red River Chamber Music Festival, a summer study and performance festival founded by the Chiara Quartet in Grand Forks, North

The Chiara trained and taught at The Juilliard School, mentoring for two years with the Juilliard Quartet, as recipients of the Lisa Arnhold Quartet Residency from 2003-2005.

“Chiara” (key-ARE-uh) is an Italian word, meaning "clear, pure, or light." More information about the Chiara Quartet can be found online at and on MySpace at