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Chiara String Quartet

Peak Performances

The Chiara String Quartet plays by heart, performing amazing feats of musical memorization by playing without printed sheet music. Equally renowned for bringing fresh excitement to traditional string quartet repertoire and creating insightful interpretations of new music, the Chiara has been lauded for its “highly virtuosic, edge-of-the-seat playing” (The Boston Globe). The Grammy Award-nominated ensemble is committed to the creation of new music and has commissioned and premiered works by contemporary composers since its inception, including the works featured on this program by Friedman and Frank.

String Quartet no. 2
Jefferson Friedman

Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout
Gabriela Lena Frank

Octet: Double Quartet
William Bolcom
Performed with the Shanghai Quartet


bartok video
friedman quartet video
mozart video



The Cultural Engagement program in Montclair State University’s Office of Arts and Cultural Programming involves students, faculty, and community members in creative and intellectually stimulating education events that connect audiences with artists from around the globe. All engagement events are free and open to the public. Click here to see our full list of engagement events for this season.



william bolcomNational Medal of Arts, Pulitzer Prize, and Grammy Award-winner William Bolcom (born May 26, 1938) is an American composer of chamber, operatic, vocal, choral, and symphonic music.

Born in Seattle, Washington, he began composition studies at the age of 11 with George Frederick McKay and John Verrall at the University of Washington while continuing piano lessons with Madame Berthe Poncy Jacobson. He later studied with Darius Milhaud at Mills College while working on his Master of Arts degree, with Leland Smith at Stanford University while working on his D.M.A., and with Olivier Messiaen and Milhaud at the Paris Conservatoire, where he received the 2éme Prix de Composition.

He joined the faculty of the University of Michigan’s School of Music in 1973, was named the Ross Lee Finney Distinguished University Professor of Composition in 1994, and retired in 2008 after 35 years.

Bolcom won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1988 for 12 New Etudes for Piano, and his setting of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience on the Naxos label won four Grammy Awards in 2005.

As a pianist Bolcom has performed and recorded his own work frequently in collaboration with his wife and musical partner, mezzo-soprano Joan Morris. Their primary specialties in both concerts and recordings are cabaret songs, show tunes, and American popular songs of the 20th century. They have recorded 25 albums together – Autumn Leaves was released in 2015.

As a composer, Bolcom has written four violin sonatas; nine symphonies; three operas (McTeague, A View from the Bridge and A Wedding), plus several musical theater operas; eleven string quartets; two film scores (Hester Street and Illuminata); incidental music for stage plays, including Arthur Miller’s Broken Glass; fanfares and occasional pieces; and an extensive catalogue of chamber, choral, and vocal works.

Bolcom’s setting of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience, a full evening’s work for soloists, choruses, and orchestra, culminated 25 years of work on the piece. The April 8, 2004, performance in the recently-renovated Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was recorded by Naxos. The CD won four Grammy Awards in 2005: Best Choral Performance, Best Classical Contemporary Composition, Best Classical Album, and Producer of the Year, Classical.

lena frankIdentity has always been at the center of Gabriela Lena Frank’s music. Born in Berkeley, California, to a mother of mixed Peruvian/Chinese ancestry and a father of Lithuanian/Jewish descent, Frank explores her multicultural heritage most ardently through her compositions. Inspired by the works of Bela Bartók and Alberto Ginastera, Frank is something of a musical anthropologist. She has traveled extensively throughout South America and her pieces reflect and refract her studies of Latin American folklore, incorporating poetry, mythology, and native musical styles into a western classical framework that is uniquely her own. She writes challenging idiomatic parts for solo instrumentalists, vocalists, chamber ensembles, and orchestras.

Moreover, she writes, “There’s usually a story line behind my music; a scenario or character.” While the enjoyment of her works can be obtained solely from her music, the composer’s program notes enhance the listener’s experience, for they describe how a piano part mimics a marimba or pan-pipes, or how a movement is based on a particular type of folk song, where the singer is mockingly crying. Even a brief glance at her titles evokes specific imagery: Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout; Cuatro Canciones Andinas; and La Llorona: Tone Poem for Viola and Orchestra. Frank’s compositions also reflect her virtuosity as a pianist — when not composing, she is a sought-after performer, specializing in contemporary repertoire.

The residency of Gabriela Lena Frank with the Detroit Symphony will culminate in January 2017 with the premiere of her Concerto for Orchestra, brimming with Peruvian influence. As she completes her third year as Houston Symphony’s Composer-in-Residence, Frank will write a requiem for premiere in May 2017. This multi-cultural work interweaves traditional Latin and Meso-American texts with contemporary text by Pulitzer Prize-winning Cuban-American writer Nilo Cruz. Frank has developed a number of projects with Cruz, among them La Centinela y la Paloma (The Keeper and the Dove), a song cycle for Dawn Upshaw and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and Journey of the Shadow for the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra.

Recent premieres include Iberian Songs for Music From Angel Fire; Five Scenes for the San Diego Symphony and Malashock Dance, Cuentos Errantes: Four New Folk Songs for piano and strings written for The Sphinx Virtuosi, My Angel, His Name is Freedom for The Library of Congress and the Handel and Haydn Society, Karnavalingo for the Houston Symphony, Will-o’-the-Wisp for piccolo player Mary Kay Fink and the Cleveland Orchestra; Saints for The Berkeley Symphony, soprano Jessica Rivera and the San Francisco Girls Chorus; and Concertino Cusqueño for the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Having collaborated with a broad range of artists, Frank’s other works include Quijotadas for the Brentano String Quartet; Jalapeño Blues for Chanticleer; Compadrazgo, a double concerto for David Finckel and Wu Han with the ProMusica Orchestra; ¡Chayraq! and Ritmos Anchinos for the Silk Road Project; and Inkarrí for the Kronos Quartet. 2017 will bring premieres of a flute sonata for Demarre McGill of the Dallas Symphony, and a new solo violin sonata for Movses Pogossian.

Frank attended Rice University in Houston, Texas, where she earned both a B.A. (1994) and M.A. (1996). She studied composition with Paul Cooper, Ellsworth Milburn, and Sam Jones, and piano with Jeanne Kierman Fischer. Frank credits Fischer with introducing her to the music of Ginastera, Bartók, and other composers who utilized folk elements in their work. At the University of Michigan, where she received a D.M.A. in composition in 2001, Frank studied with Wil’liam Albright, William Bolcom, Leslie Bassett, and Michael Daugherty, and piano with Logan Skelton.

jefferson friedmanAmerican composer Jefferson Friedman was born in 1974 in Swampscott, Massachusetts. His music has been called “impossible to resist” by The New York Times, and Sequenza 21 reports, “[Mr. Friedman] goes a lot further toward sustaining interest and tension than composers twice his age (and with Pulitzer Prizes).” His work has been performed throughout the United States and abroad, most notably at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall and Avery Fisher Hall, Carnegie Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Columbia University’s Miller Theatre, the Bowery Ballroom, (Le) Poisson Rouge, and the American Academy in Rome. His piece, String Quartet No. 3, was nominated for a Grammy for “Best Contemporary Classical Composition of the Year,” recorded as part of the Chiara String Quartet’s 2011 New Amsterdam Records album.

Mr. Friedman has been commissioned three times by Leonard Slatkin and the National Symphony Orchestra; his works March, The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly, and Sacred Heart: Explosion were all written for the NSO. March is a brief closing piece, commissioned by the orchestra as part of the Hechinger Encores series. The Throne and Sacred Heart are the second and third sections of a planned orchestral trilogy entitled In the Realms of the Unreal, each movement of which is based on the life and work of a different American “outsider” or “visionary” artist.

The Throne is a musical depiction of Washington outsider artist James Hampton’s (1909—1964) incredible sculptural work of the same name. After its premiere, The Washington Post described the piece as having “ambitious scale and complexity” and The Washington Times proclaimed, “Perhaps this country’s long drought of listenable classical music is now coming to an end. This work, frankly, is a keeper.” The piece has subsequently been performed by the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fischer Hall, and by the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl.

In October 2007, the NSO commissioned and premiered a revised version of Mr. Friedman’s Sacred Heart: Explosion. Sacred Heart: Explosion is based on the work of visionary artist Henry Darger, of Chicago (1892—1972), and the original version of the piece was composed while Mr. Friedman was still a student at Juilliard. After the premiere of the revised version, The Washington Post hailed it as having, “truly eloquent moments,” and The Washington Times reported that it was “thoroughly modern, highly intelligent music.” In June 2008, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra presented the Chicago premiere of the piece. In addition, a live recording of the National Symphony Orchestra’s premiere was included as the only non-visual artwork in an exhibit called “Dargerism: Contemporary Artists and Henry Darger” at The American Folk Art Museum in New York in 2008. The 16-minute piece was broadcast three times per hour throughout the exhibit, and Mr. Friedman’s scores and score sketches were also on display.

In addition to his works for orchestra, Mr. Friedman has written three string quartets for the Chiara Quartet. His String Quartet No. 2 is published by G. Schirmer, Inc. as part of their New American Voices series, and was recorded by the Corigliano Quartet for their Naxos debut CD. String Quartets Nos. 2 and 3 are performed frequently. String Quartet No. 2 was featured with new choreography by Brian Reeder at Columbia University’s Miller Theater, and selections from both String Quartets Nos. 2 and 3 were performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, as part of a festival honoring John Corigliano for his 70th birthday. In addition, the quartets have been featured regularly on the Wordless Music Series in New York, which brings together classical and indie rock or electronica artists for shared concerts. Of a performance of String Quartet No. 3 at the Tribeca New Music Festival opening concert in 2009, The New York Times reported it to be, “a vital, imaginative 30-minute score, packed with unusual timbres, unabashedly rich melodies (played meltingly by Ms. Cuckson and Ms. Sirota) and carefully worked-out themes. Mr. Friedman’s quartets are finding plenty of performances; they already deserve to be heard as classics of this decade.” String Quartets Nos. 2 and 3 have been recorded by the Chara Quartet, released in 2011 by New Amsterdam Records.

In February 2009, Miller Theater presented an evening-length concert featuring only Mr. Friedman’s music as part of its Composer Portraits series. The Portrait included the world premiere of On in Love, a set of three genre-bending songs for former Shudder To Think singer Craig Wedren, with the American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME). On in Love has since received repeat performances as part of the Wordless Music Series at (Le) Poisson Rouge, at Joe’s Pub, and at The Bowery Ballroom. In response to the piece, The New York Times wrote, “Jefferson Friedman is one of the increasingly plentiful young composers who have found ways to meld their classical music training with rock sensibilities, and his version of this blend is both sophisticated and appealing. A Composer Portraits concert at the Miller Theater on Thursday evening showed how it works. A striking element of Mr. Friedman’s music is that both his classical and rock influences are almost always evident, but the balance between them is fluid.”

Mr. Friedman’s honors and awards include the Rome Prize Fellowship in Musical Composition, the ASCAP Leo Kaplan Award, the BMI Student Composer Award, the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award, the Palmer-Dixon Prize, and the top prize in the Juilliard Orchestra Competition. He received his M.M. degree in music composition from The Juilliard School, where he studied with John Corigliano, and his B.A. from Columbia University, where his teachers included David Rakowski and Jonathan Kramer. His has also studied with George Tsontakis and Christopher Rouse.

In addition to his work as a composer, Mr. Friedman has performed with rock bands, including Shudder To Think, and has collaborated with the electronic music duo Matmos, contributing string arrangements for their album The Rose Has Teeth In The Mouth Of A Beast. In 2012, he moved to Los Angeles. Since then he has worked on a number of film, television and live theatrical projects, including contributions to music by Craig Wedren, Deborah Lurie and Danny Elfman.

chiara quartetRenowned for bringing fresh excitement to traditional string quartet repertoire as well as for creating insightful interpretations of new music, the Chiara String Quartet (Rebecca Fischer and Hyeyung Julie Yoon, violins; Jonah Sirota, viola; Gregory Beaver, cello) captivates its audiences throughout the country. The Chiara has established itself as among America’s most respected ensembles, lauded for its “highly virtuosic, edge-of-the-seat playing” (The Boston Globe). They are currently Hixson-Lied Artists-in-Residence at the Glenn Korff School of Music at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and were the Blodgett Artists-in-Residence at Harvard University from 2008- 2014. For the 2015-2016 season, the Chiara will be the quartet-in-residence at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Now in its 16th season, the Chiara is moving forward by taking a cue from the past. Harkening back to a tradition that is centuries old and still common among soloists, the Chiara Quartet has adopted a new way of performing: from memory, without printed sheet music. After memorizing a work, the Quartet is rewarded with deeply gratifying performances where each member feels fully present in the moment, truly performing with heart, by heart. The Chiara is currently recording Bartók by Heart, a 2-CD set featuring Bartók’s six string quartets, played entirely from memory, slated for release in 2016 on Azica. The quartet’s latest album, Brahms by Heart, was released on Azica in March 2014.

In addition to the Chiara Quartet’s regular performances in major concert halls across the country, including Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, Carnegie Hall, Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the National Gallery in Washington DC, the ensemble was one of the first string quartets to perform in alternative venues for chamber music performance. Recent highlights of the Chiara Quartet’s international performances include extensive tours of China, Korea, and Sweden.

In addition to Brahms by Heart and the forthcoming Bartók by Heart, the complete Chiara discography includes a Grammy-nominated recording of Jefferson Friedman’s String Quartets Nos. 2 and 3 on New Amsterdam Records, the Mozart and Brahms clarinet quintets for SMS Classical, and the world premiere recordings of Robert Sirota’s Triptych and Gabriela Lena Frank’s Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout on the Quartet’s own New Voice Singles label.

The Chiara has been committed to the creation of new music for string quartet since its inception, and has commissioned composers including Gabriela Lena Frank, Jefferson Friedman, Nico Muhly, Daniel Ott, Robert Sirota, among others. Recent collaborators in performance include The Juilliard String Quartet, Joel Krosnick, Roger Tapping, Todd Palmer, Robert Levin, Simone Dinnerstein, Norman Fischer, Nadia Sirota, and Paul Katz, as well as members of the Orion, Ying, Cavani, and Pacifica Quartets.

In the summer, the Chiara Quartet is in residence at Greenwood Music Camp as well as the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Chamber Music Institute. 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.

Chiara (key-ARE-uh) is an Italian word, meaning “clear, pure, or light.”

rebecca fischerRebecca Fischer, violinist in the Chiara Quartet, tours regularly in North America, Europe and Asia. With the Chiara Quartet Ms. Fischer has won top prizes in the Fischoff National Chamber Music competition, the Paolo Borciani Competition in Italy, the Astral Artistic Services audition, and was awarded the Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming. Praised for her “beautiful tone and nuanced phrasing (Boston Musical Intelligencer),” Ms. Fischer has appeared as a soloist with many orchestras and has served as concertmaster of the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, the Juilliard Symphony, and assistant concertmaster of the Spoleto Festival Orchestra in Spoleto, Italy. A passionate educator, Ms. Fischer is a Research Associate Professor and Hixson-Lied Artist-in-Residence at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and summer faculty at Greenwood Music Camp in western Massachusetts.

Ms. Fischer is also part of AFIELD, an interdisciplinary collaboration with her husband, artist and writer Anthony Hawley. With AFIELD Ms. Fischer has performed at the CounterCurrent Festival (as violinist, actress and dancer) in Houston, Texas, on the streets of New York City, and at Arte Studio Ginestrelle in Assisi, Italy. In the summer 2016, AFIELD will be in residence at Design Inquiry on the island on Vinalhaven, Maine, developing a multi-media program including solo violin pieces written for Ms. Fischer by Paola Prestini, Nico Muhly, Augusta Reed Thomas, Pierre Jalbert, Lisa Bielawa, Byron Au Yong, Rodney Lister and Gabriela Lena Frank.

Ms. Fischer graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts from Columbia University in Music and Comparative Religion and holds a Master of Music and an Artist Diploma in String Quartet Studies from The Juilliard School. Her primary violin teachers include Kathleen Winkler, Joel Smirnoff, and Masao Kawasaki, and she has worked extensively with members of the Juilliard, Takacs, Concord and Cleveland Quartets. Ms. Fischer plays on a Neopolitan violin made by Giuseppe, Antonio and Giovanni Gagliano.

hyeyung yoonHyeyung Julie Yoon has performed in the U.S. and abroad with her quartet for over 10 years adding an intense and unique sound as its second violinist. Her recording of Pange Lingua Sonata for Violin and Piano, a piece written for Ms. Yoon and pianist Soyeon Kate Lee by composer Robert Sirota and recorded at The Academy of Arts and Letters by Judith Sherman, was released on Albany Records in 2015 to critical acclaim. Past solo work includes performing Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with pianist Steward Goodyear and cellist Gregory Beaver with the Greater Grand Forks Symphony, concerto appearances with the Charlotte Symphony and the Mannes Orchestra, and performing at the prime minister’s residence in Seoul, South Korea for the first-woman prime minister, Han Myung Sook. Current projects include performing the Sibelius Violin Concerto with the University of Nebraska Symphony Orchestra in Spring 2016. As a devoted teacher, she serves as Research Associate Professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She has taught at Harvard University through The Blodgett String Quartet Residency, The Juilliard School, Greenwood Music Camp, and The Chamber Music Institute at the University of Nebraska. Ms. Yoon’s articles on practicing and violin-playing have been featured on Strings Magazine. She graduated from The Juilliard School with a Bachelor of Music Degree and an Artist Diploma Degree in String Quartet Studies. Her teachers and mentors include Sally Thomas and the members of the Juilliard String Quartet. When she isn’t playing in quartet or practicing, she spends time with her husband Gregory Beaver, who is also in the quartet, their two daughters and two cats. Ms. Yoon plays on a Neapolitan violin by Nicolò Gagliano made circa 1760.

jonah sirotaChiara String Quartet violist Jonah Sirota is known as a soloist and chamber musician of great range and depth. Since making his concerto debut with Alan Gilbert and the Juilliard Pre-College Symphony at the age of 17, he was third prize-winner in the 2006 Naumburg Viola Competition, and won further concerto competitions at both Rice University and at the Juilliard School. A champion of new music, he has commissioned and premiered new viola works from Gabriela Lena Frank, Arthur Joseph McCaffrey, and Alexis Bacon, as well as a concerto by his father, composer Robert Sirota. He has performed at the Marlboro, Norfolk, Yellow Barn, and Aspen music festivals.

Mr. Sirota has studied with Martha Katz, Roberto Diaz, and Samuel Rhodes, among others. He graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Music degree from Rice University, and then received both a Master of Music degree and an Artist Diploma in String Quartet Studies from the Juilliard School. He also studied aesthetic education and audience engagement at Juilliard with master teacher Eric Booth. In addition, he has written a travel blog for the Journal of the American Viola Society.

As a viola professor, Mr. Sirota specializes in highlighting awareness of the body-mind connection as it applies to technique and musicianship. He has used his own successful experiences in fighting performance-related injuries to help students fix injuries, reduce tension in their playing, reduce fear in their approach to performing and career, and become engaging and engaged musicians and artists. Mr. Sirota plays on a copy of a 1755 Testore viola made by Gregg Alf of Ann Arbor, Michigan in 2009.

gregory beaverGregory Beaver is the cellist of the internationally-recognized Chiara String Quartet in residence at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The quartet has received rave reviews around the globe, recently touring South Korea and China. Their album “Jefferson Friedman: Quartets” was nominated for a Grammy in 2008. Most recently, the group has received a great deal of notice for performing Béla Bartók’s 6 string quartets entirely by heart. They are recording the set for Azica Records, to be released in 2016. As a soloist, Mr. Beaver won the 1997 Corpus Christi Young Artist’s Competition and was selected as one of the two quarterfinalists from the United States for the Australasian International Cello Competition in Christchurch, New Zealand.

In 2015, Mr. Beaver performed the complete Unaccompanied Cello Suites of Bach in a single concert in Massachusetts and in 2016 he will perform them over live webcast in Nebraska. Mr. Beaver has worked with great artists such as Pierre Boulez in a special Carnegie Hall performance of Messagesquisse, and as principal cellist of the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra he has worked with conductors such Claudio Abbado and Robert Spano.

Gregory started cello with Char Sherman in the Okemos Suzuki program in Okemos, Michigan. He studied with Marilyn Kesler and continued his studies with renowned pedagogue Louis Potter, jr. He has a BM cum laude from Rice University where he studied with Norman Fischer, an MM from The Juilliard School where he studied with Joel Krosnick, and an Artist Diploma in String Quartet Studies from The Juilliard School where he studied with the Juilliard String Quartet. Gregory is also an internationally recognized expert in the PHP computer programming language, and his book The PEAR Installer Manifesto: Revolutionizing PHP Application Development and Deployment was released by Packt Publishing in October of 2006. His blog is a popular source of information on advanced cello techniques and has the definitive article on traveling with a cello by air.



In the News

RONNI REICH, PEAK PERFORMANCES’ 2016–17 SEASON MAGAZINE: “William Bolcom: Embracing All Terrain”
“At the festival, the Harlem Quartet will play a selection of Bolcom’s rags, arranged for string quartet, alongside Latin and jazz standards and a Mozart work.”

The New York Times: Bartok, by Heart, from the Chiara String Quartet

“Peak Performances Executive Director Jedediah Wheeler conceived the All Terrain String Festival to celebrate the richness and range of the string quartet landscape. The festival is remarkably broad not only in its lineup, but also in the program of music comprising each concert. It opens, on March 31, with the Harlem Quartet, which aims to advance diversity in classical music, in part by performing works by minority composers in multiple genres.”