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The Miró Quartet is one of America’s most celebrated and dedicated string quartets, having been labeled by The New Yorker as “furiously committed” and noted by the Cleveland Plain-Dealer for their “exceptional tonal focus and interpretive intensity.” For the past twenty years they have performed throughout the world on the most prestigious concert stages, earning accolades from passionate critics and audiences alike. Based in Austin, TX, and thriving on the area’s storied music scene, the Miró takes pride in finding new ways to communicate with audiences of all backgrounds while cultivating the longstanding tradition of chamber music. Highlights of recent seasons include a highly anticipated and sold-out return to Carnegie Hall to perform Beethoven’s Opus 59 quartets; a performance at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center as part of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s inaugural residency; the world premiere of a new concerto for string quartet and orchestra by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Puts; performances of the complete Beethoven Cycle at the Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival and at Tokyo’s Suntory Hall; and debuts in 2014-15 in Korea, Singapore, and at the Hong Kong International Chamber Music Festival.

The Quartet’s 2016-17 season features collaborations with David Shifrin, Martin Beaver, Clive Greensmith, Andre Watts, and Wu Han; a performance of the complete Beethoven cycle in just nine days for Chamber Music Tulsa; and a much-anticipated return to Carnegie Hall. During its 2015-16 season, the Quartet returned to the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, performing Beethoven in Alice Tully Hall and the complete cycle of Ginastera’s quartets at the Rose Studio; and performed a late-Schubert quartet cycle for the prestigious Slee Series in Buffalo, NY. A favorite of summer chamber music festivals, the Miró Quartet has recently performed at La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest, Chamber Music Northwest, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, OK Mozart, and Music@Menlo. The Miró regularly collaborates with pianist Jon Kimura Parker, percussionist Colin Currie, and mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke. Formed in 1995, the Miró Quartet was awarded first prize at several national and international competitions including the Banff International String Quartet Competition and the Naumburg Chamber Music Competition. Deeply committed to music education, members of the Quartet have given master classes at universities and conservatories throughout the world, and since 2003 the Miró has served as the quartet-in-residence at the University of Texas at Austin Sarah and Ernest Butler School of Music. In 2005, the Quartet became the first ensemble ever to be awarded the coveted Avery Fisher Career Grant.

Having released nine celebrated recordings, the Miró recently produced an Emmy Award-winning multimedia project titled Transcendence. A work with visual and audio elements available on live stream, CD, and Blu-ray, Transcendence encompasses philanthropy and documentary filmmaking and is centered around a performance of Franz Schubert’s Quartet in G major on rare Stradivarius instruments. The Miró records independently and makes its music available on a global scale through Apple Music, Amazon, Spotify, Pandora, and YouTube. The Miró Quartet took its name and its inspiration from the Spanish artist Joan Miró, whose Surrealist works — with subject matter drawn from the realm of memory, dreams, and imaginative fantasy — are some of the most groundbreaking, influential, and admired of the 20th century.

Visit www.miroquartet.com for more information.

Haydn: Quartet, Op. 71 # 3 / Puccini: Chrysanthemums / Schumann: Quartet, Op. 41 #1


Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) was one of the first composers to write for a chamber ensemble of two violins, viola and cello. The works he wrote in that developing genre—nearly seventy scores spanning forty years—were pivotal in establishing the string quartet as a chamber music mainstay. String quartets, like most chamber music at that time, spread primarily through published editions that amateurs could perform in private. Haydn proved to be quite shrewd at selling his works to publishers in various European capitals, and he even monetized the dedication of the score: For a series of quartets written in 1793, he convinced a Viennese nobleman, Count Anton Georg Apponyi, to pay a hefty premium to have the works dedicated to him. Haydn eventually published the quartets in two sets of three, listed as Opus 71 and Opus 74. The String Quartet in E-flat Major (Op. 71, No. 3) is a particularly buoyant specimen, with first and last movements set in a lively Vivace tempo. The slow movement, constructed as variations on a light-stepping theme, strides forward “with motion” (Andante con moto), while the third movement, a classic Haydn Minuet, relishes it playful staccato articulations and unexpected turns of phrase.

Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924), following in the wake of Verdi, was the standard-bearer for Italian opera at the turn of the twentieth century. His verismo style brought realism and depth of human emotion to his characters, and his musical language incorporated the best aspects of Verdi, Wagner, and French opera composers such as Bizet and Gounod. Puccini hardly wrote any instrumental music, and most of it went unpublished in his lifetime, including the short string quartet that he composed in 1890 to memorialize the Duke of Savoy. The title, Chrysanthemums, reflects the European tradition of using those flowers for funerals.

Robert Schumann (1810-1856) spent an unhappy six weeks alone in the spring of 1842, after returning home to Leipzig while his wife, Clara, toured Europe giving highly touted piano recitals. During that time, he busied himself by poring over string quartets by Haydn and Mozart and studying the art of counterpoint as perfected by Bach in the same city of Leipzig a century earlier. With those historical precedents in mind, Schumann composed a set of three string quartets that summer, the first chamber music he had completed since his teenage years. The Introduzione that begins the String Quartet No. 1 in A Minor evokes the feeling of a slow Haydn introduction, while the imitative counterpoint speaks to Schumann’s engagement with Baroque polyphony. The spirit of Bach returns when the viola initiates a syncopated fugato, introducing new rigor into the free-flowing, songlike material. The Scherzo owes its greatest debt to Felix Mendelssohn, Schumann’s friend and colleague in Leipzig and the dedicatee of this quartet. After a songlike slow movement, the rapid finale takes a page from Beethoven in making the most of a compact gesture, first heard in the rising proclamation of the opening chords.

© 2018 Aaron Grad.