Julie Amacher, Classical MPR
The Verona Quartet — Diffusion (Azica)
“I found a special bond. I felt as though I was meant to be the voice that glued everybody together, highly influential, but behind the scenes. I loved that. I even wrote my college entrance essay about wanting to play in a string quartet. Of course, at the time, I had no idea what that really meant,” said violist Abigail Rojansky of the Verona Quartet. That college entrance essay was for Oberlin College, where the Verona Quartet is now serving as quartet-in-residence.
According to Rojansky, music is just one avenue for telling a meaningful story. Its name, the Verona Quartet, pays tribute to Shakespeare, another great storyteller. She is joined by cellist Jonathan Dormand to talk about the stories that make up their debut recording, Diffusion.
Why is exploring folk traditions on this album important to you?
Jonathan: “It’s the end and the beginning of a period of time where you have national identities in a style of playing.
“It's all about how you take from one culture, explore it and made it your own. That is what we've tried to do. We looked back to fantastic music and learned from its traditions. But, how do we make it our own and do we try to put our own stamp on it?”
Why is Maurice Ravel's String Quartet considered a masterpiece?
Abigail: “The piece is masterfully written, but in terms of form, its breaking with tradition while building upon history. He greatly respected and heard the Debussy quartet. Debussy only wrote one String Quartet, which Ravel loved, but he thought that there were aspects of it that could have been improved.
“Ravel’s String Quartet was also met with criticism, especially the last movement which people thought didn't have enough of a melody. It was too fast and in an uncomfortable rhythm. Now we look at it and say, ‘Oh, my goodness, this last movement is so spectacular.’“
Can you talk about how Karol Szymanowski creates his unique voice in his String Quartet No. 2?
Jonathan: “It has this hyper-romanticism about it. I just don't know another composer that writes incredibly lyrical, but at the same time offers delicious harmonies. He has his own unique take on everything. I'm quite obsessed with his piece.
“The second movement also blasts us out of our seats. I'm not going to lie. I was listening and went, ‘Whoa!’ You can hear the power and the forcefulness in the music.”
How does Leos Janacek’s passion for unrequited love come through in his String Quartet No. 2?
Abigail: “One energized idea will break and suddenly he'll say something completely different with an entirely different emotional character, subject, or mode of expression. He does that in this quartet and that's part of what makes it so incredibly dramatic. Suddenly, it goes black and then there's something completely different. Nobody else could write like that before him.”
To hear the rest of my conversation, download the extended podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.