On Saturday, May 11, 2019, at 7 PM Candlelight Concert Society will be presenting Escher Quartet and Christopher Shih, piano, at the Smith Theatre at the Horowitz Center for the Arts at Howard Community College.
The highly acclaimed Escher Quartet, the second of two top-tier string quartets hosted this season by Columbia’s Candlelight Concert Society, draws its name from the 20th-century Dutch artist M.C. Escher. Inspired by Escher’s ability to form a cohesive and conceptual whole from individual components, the quartet seems to have chosen aptly.
Honored with a BBC New Generation Artist designation when they arrived on the scene with a flourish in 2005, the Escher is also one of the few chamber ensembles to have been awarded an Avery Fisher Career Grant. Its distinguished discography has earned rave reviews, including a nomination for “BBC Music Magazine’s” Recording of the Year and a listing in “The Guardian’s” Top Ten CDs of 2016.
Escher String Quartet includes Adam Barnett-Hart, violin, Danbi Um, Violin, Pierre LaPointe, viola, and Brook Speltz, cello. They will be accompanied on the piano by Christopher Shih, a local favorite.
For its performance, the Escher Quartet will present a program of much-loved works by composers with links to the Czech heartland – an inspirational and inexhaustible source of musicians and masterworks.
The concert opens with string quartets by Mozart, who spent a great deal of time in Prague, and by Erich Korngold, born in Brno. The Bohemian master himself, Antonin Dvorak, takes center stage after intermission. For his peerless Piano Quintet in A Major, Op. 81, Escher pairs with Howard County’s own Christopher Shih, a distinguished physician and winner of multiple amateur piano competitions.
With its artistry, energy, and a program of much-loved masterworks, Escher seems likely to close Candlelight’s 46th season in an exciting and emphatic manner.
After the concert, please join the artists for a reception in the Horowitz Center Lobby featuring a performance by the Peabody Pre-College Violin Program.
Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the box office at 410-997-2324; Adults $35, Students $12. Season subscriptions are still available. Candlelight proudly continues its “One Buy One” program, whereby each paying adult may receive a complimentary ticket for one child (ages 9-17). Group tickets (minimum 10) are available one week in advance for $25 each. The concert will be held in the Smith Theatre on the campus of Howard Community College.
Candlelight Concert Society presents world-class chamber music by today’s leading artists to the Howard County community and beyond. Experience the magic of transformative, live chamber music in a comfortable setting without the commute or parking fees. Founded in Columbia by local music lovers in 1972, Candlelight’s mission extends to its CandleKids series to spark children’s interest in the performing arts and to its Educational Outreach programs to build future audiences through performances, lectures, workshops and master classes. In addition, Candlelight offers Community Outreach performances for Howard County residents unable to attend a formal concert setting. For more information, visit www.candlelightconcerts.org.
I had a chance to interview, Escher String Quartet’s Brook Speltz, cellist.
Praised for his “fluid virtuosity” and “soulful melodies,” Los Angeles native Brook Speltz has been inspired since childhood by the long tradition of deep musical mastery of artists such as Jascha Heifetz, Pierre Fournier, and the Guarneri String Quartet.
An extremely versatile cellist, Brook has performed as a soloist, chamber musician, and recitalist throughout the US, Canada, Latin America, Europe, and Asia. First Prize winner of the prestigious Ima Hogg Competition. He has performed as a soloist with the Houston Symphony, Colorado Music Festival Orchestra and International Contemporary Ensemble, among others, and I have been a regular performer at England’s IMS Prussia Cove and on tour with Musicians from Marlboro. As an avid and sought-after chamber musician, Brook has been personally invited by musical giants such as Itzhak Perlman and Richard Goode to collaborate in chamber music recitals and tours throughout the country.
A lover of all facets of the music world, he has enjoyed performing on extensive tours with the cello rock band Break of Reality, whose online video of the Game of Thrones cover immediately went viral and has already received over 4.5 million views. Their recent U.S. tour raised funds and awareness for music programs in public schools all around the country.
Brook studied at the renowned Curtis Institute of Music with Peter Wiley and at the Juilliard School with Joel Krosnick, after his formative years of study with Eleanor Schoenfeld in Los Angeles. He performs on a 1756 J.C. Gigli on loan from his father, a cellist and his first inspiration in a family of professional musicians.
What made you choose the cello over other instruments?
Although my parents won’t confirm it, I do believe the choice was made for me. I have two older brothers who each took up the piano and violin, respectively. It seemed only natural to my parents, both of whom are professional string players (father-cello, mother-violin) that I play cello to complete the sibling Piano Trio. Unfortunately, my eldest brother quit piano at a young age so the family piano trio never quite got off the ground.
Is there a cellist or are there cellists that you admire, past and present and did they influence your music?
I have had many mentors, both alive and deceased, and I’m constantly inspired by young up and coming musicians. Growing up, I was particularly inspired by the great 20th century cellists Pierre Fournier, David Soyer, Leonard Rose, and Rostropovich. In particular, it was through David Soyer’s recordings with his group the Guarneri String Quartet that I learned the great repertoire for string quartet. Of course, I continue to be inspired by my father’s playing.
Do you prefer playing solo or in a group?
I’ve always been drawn to chamber music; a few musicians who can share the burden of a masterpiece while playing an integral role in its preparation and performance.
What composer’s or composers’ music do you think most complements the sounds of the cello and are they also the ones you most enjoy performing?
Each of the great composers, both living and deceased, bring different strengths to their string writing. Schumann is one of the most beautiful and mysterious composers but his string writing is often times very awkward to deal with. Same can go for Beethoven. On the other hand, I’ve found that I feel very comfortable playing the music of Mendelssohn and Shostakovich, even if my affection for their music doesn’t always match that of Beethoven or Brahms.
How many years have you been playing and how many hours a day do you practice?
I’ve been playing since I was 5 years old. I wish I had practiced more as a youngster since the mind is so much more absorbing when you’re young. I try and do 3 hours a day, but that gets more difficult as I grow older!