Distinguished by its virtuosity, probing musical insight, and impassioned, fiery performances, the Ariel Quartet has garnered critical praise worldwide over the span of nearly two decades. Formed in Israel as teenagers at the Jerusalem Academy Middle School of Music and Dance, the Ariel was named recipient of the prestigious Cleveland Quartet Award, granted by Chamber Music America in recognition of artistic achievement and career support. The ensemble serves as the Faculty Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, where they direct the chamber-music program and present a concert series, in addition to maintaining a busy touring schedule in the United States and abroad.
Following appearances at leading festivals in the United States, Canada, and Italy, the Ariel Quartet begins the 2018-2019 season at the Newport Music Festival, followed by Music Mountain in Lakeville, CT, where they are joined by clarinetist Oskar Espina Ruiz for an all-Mozart program. Additional fall engagements include programs in New York and Washington, DC, and concerts with Calgary Pro Musica, where the Ariel Quartet gives the Canadian premiere of John Harbison’s String Quartet No. 6. In November, the quartet embarks on a European tour, with dates in Basel, Paris, and Berlin. Highlights of 2019 are performances at the University of California, San Diego, and Mannes School of Music in New York. The Ariel Quartet is presented by Music Toronto and Chamber Music Society of Utica, where they are joined by pianist Orion Weiss for the Schumann Piano Quartet and the Brahms Piano Quintet. At the Linton Chamber Music Series in Cincinnati, the Ariel gives the U.S. premiere of the Quintet for Piano and Strings by Daniil Trifonov, with the composer as pianist.
During the 2017-18 season, the Ariel Quartet performed at the distinguished Shriver Hall Concert Series at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Schneider Concerts at the Mannes School, and the New England Conservatory, in addition to chamber-music series in Kansas City, Portland, OR, and Calgary, and on tour in Israel and Europe. The ensemble has dedicated much of its artistic energy and musical prowess to the powerful Beethoven quartets, and has performed the complete Beethoven cycle on five occasions throughout the United States and Europe. The Ariel Quartet is the first group to have played the complete Beethoven quartets in New York’s alternate music venue SubCulture, which included a performance of the Grosse Fuge at midnight.
The Ariel Quartet regularly collaborates with today’s eminent and rising young musicians and ensembles, including pianist Orion Weiss, violist Roger Tapping, cellist Paul Katz, and the American, Pacifica, and Jerusalem String Quartets. The Quartet has toured with cellist Alisa Weilerstein and performed frequently with pianists Jeremy Denk and Menahem Pressler. In addition, the Ariel served as Quartet-in-Residence for the Steans Music Institute at the Ravinia Festival, the Yellow Barn Music Festival, and the Perlman Music Program, as well as the Ernst Stiefel String Quartet-in-Residence at the Caramoor Festival.
Formerly the resident ensemble of the Professional String Quartet Training Program at the New England Conservatory, from which the players obtained their undergraduate and graduate degrees, the Ariel was mentored extensively by acclaimed string-quartet giants Walter Levin and Paul Katz. It has won numerous international prizes in addition to the Cleveland Quartet Award: Grand Prize at the 2006 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition and the Székely Prize for the performance of Bartók’s String Quartet No. 4, and Third Prize at the Banff International String Quartet Competition. About its performances at the Banff competition, the American Record Guide described the group as “a consummate ensemble gifted with utter musicality and remarkable interpretive power” and noted, in particular, their playing of Beethoven’s monumental Quartet in A minor, Op. 132, as “the pinnacle of the competition.”
Avie Records has recently issued the Ariel’s debut recording, which features the Brahms String Quartet in A minor, Op. 51, No. 2, and Bartók’s String Quartet No. 1. About the recording, Gramophone enthuses, “Here, on their debut recording, the precision and tonal polish they’ve honed over two decades is on proud display…elucidating the often meaty textures of Brahms’s A-minor Quartet without sacrificing any of its warm luxuriance. And in Bartók’s First, they negotiate the rhythmic intricacies of the finale with such deftness that I had the distinct (and delightful) sense of the composer glancing back across the 19th century to Haydn.”
The Ariel Quartet has received significant support for its studies in the United States from the American-Israel Cultural Foundation, Dov and Rachel Gottesman, and the Legacy Heritage Fund. Most recently, they were awarded a grant from the A.N. and Pearl G. Barnett Family Foundation.
August 2018 – Please do not edit without permission.
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In the summer of 2019, two of chamber music’s exceptional and award-winning artists – the Ariel Quartet and Alexander Fiterstein – will come together to premiere a new clarinet quintet by the esteemed Christopher Theofanidis. Formed in Israel, the young Ariel Quartet has been playing together as an ensemble for almost twenty years and recently received the prestigious Cleveland Quartet Award. The Ariel is now based in the United States where they serve as the faculty quartet-in-residence at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory. Considered one of the premiere clarinetists performing today, Fiterstein performs with major orchestras around the world as well as in chamber music ensembles in addition to his position as Chair of Winds at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University. Not only is he a recipient of the Avery Fisher Career Grant and winner of the Carl Nielsen International Clarinet Competition, but his playing is “soulful” (San Francisco Chronicle), “dazzling in its spectrum of colors, agility, and range.” (The Washington Post), and The New York Times raved about his “powerful technique.”
An incredibly versatile and in-demand composer, Christopher Theofanidis’ works have been performed by a number of preeminent chamber ensembles of our time, opera companies (San Francisco and Grand Opera), and major orchestras including the London Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, and Atlanta Symphony. Theofanidis is a professor at Yale University, and composer-in-residence and co-director of the composition program at the Aspen Music Festival.
The Ariel and Fiterstein are thrilled to be offering Mr. Theofanidis’ latest work for chamber ensemble. In addition to the new work, the quintet will offer either the Brahms or Mozart clarinet quintet, or a pair of quartets to open the program.
The Ariel Quartet will be touring with the pianist Benjamin Hochman, whom they have known practically all their lives. The program is built around Brahms’ monumental piano quintet.
Pianist Benjamin Hochman’s eloquent and virtuosic performances blend colorful artistry with poetic interpretation exciting audiences and critics alike. He performs in major cities around the world as a respected orchestral soloist, recitalist and chamber musician, working with a celebrated array of renowned conductors and colleagues. An impassioned and intelligent exponent of diverse composers, from Bach and Mozart to Kurtág and Lieberson, he strives to express the essence of each composer’s works, resulting in interpretations that the Vancouver Sun described as “stylish and lucid, with patrician authority and touches of elegant wit where context allows.” Possessed of an intellectual and heartfelt musical inquisitiveness, Mr. Hochman frequently juxtaposes familiar works with the unfamiliar in his concert programs to help illuminate each work for the listener, a talent further illustrated by his thoughtful recorded repertoire.
The Ariel Quartet first performed the Beethoven cycle in Cincinnati five years ago. Since then, they have gone to perform the complete cycle in Berlin and for Napa’s Music in the Vineyards Festival. The Ariel also presented a groundbreaking Beethoven cycle performed at New York’s SubCulture that featured a midnight performance of the Grosse Fuge. Click here to read the Ariel’s thoughts on Beethoven, as well as to watch videos from each of Beethoven’s quartets: https://www.arielquartet.com/the-cycle/.
2019-2020 Program Choices
Program I: Back to Haydn
Beethoven: Quartet in A major, Op. 18, No. 5
Mozart: Quartet in A major, K. 464
Haydn: Quartet in C major, Op. 76, No. 3, “Emperor”
Examining the origins of a masterpiece we often find ourselves tracing its lineage by relating it to the influence previous composers have had on its genesis. The direct or indirect links we discover provide us with a deeper understanding of the work at hand, as well as the composer him- or herself. “Back to Haydn” illustrates this process musically and simultaneously celebrates Joseph ‘Papa’ Haydn, the originator of the string quartet genre itself: Beethoven’s Quartet in A major, Op. 18, No. 5 (ca.1797-1800) is modeled directly on Mozart’s Quartet in A major, K. 464 (1785) - in form, tonality, and conception. Beethoven studied composition with Haydn, who in turn was a mentor to Mozart, and ending with Haydn’s triumphant ‘Emperor’ quartet (ca. 1797/98) exhibits this lineage beautifully. Stunningly, all three pieces were written within a span of less than fifteen years and thus this program offers the unique possibility to follow the traces these monumental masters have left us through their legacy, referred to commonly as the First Viennese School.
Program II: Darkness and Light
Haydn: Quartet in D minor, Op. 76, No. 2, “Quinten”
Tan Dun: Eight Colors for String Quartet
Schubert: Quartet in D minor, D. 810, “Death and the Maiden”
As musicians we spend most of our time dissecting and defining the emotional content of the music we play, often likening it to moods and colors. This process is especially important in order to clearly communicate our thoughts and it sharpens our awareness for the powerfully contrasting feelings our own emotional landscapes hold. In “Darkness and Light” we explore the concept of contrast and colors by taking our audience on a musical journey which begins with the most obvious form of contrast: dark (minor) and light (major). Haydn’s ‘Quinten’ quartet delivers the perfect example as minor and major keys chase each other in a gripping and impetuous rollercoaster ride. A more literal interpretation follows with Tan Dun’s Eight Colors before the metaphorical power of Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden” brings the program to a sweeping end.
Program III: The Fugue
Mozart: Adagio and Fugue in C minor, K. 546
Bartók: Quartet No. 1
Beethoven: Quartet in B-flat major, Op. 130, with the Grosse Fugue, Op. 133
The Fugue is perhaps the strictest of all musical forms, bound by rules which seemingly limit the composer’s ability to choose creative basics such as entrances and key relationships. At the same time its contrapuntal nature fascinated all of today’s most famous classical composers, a fascination which – in apparent contradiction to aforementioned strict rules – left us with some of the most revolutionary and positively outrageous music ever written. We decided to honor this unique musical form since the very essence of the string quartet is intrinsically tied to the contrapuntal concept, and any traditional program will rarely feature more than one fugue. Mozart’s Adagio and Fugue perfectly exemplifies the original quality of the fugue by placing its geometry in contrast to the ominous and unpredictable Adagio. The first notes Bartók contributed to the string-quartet genre constitute the subject of a dark and passionate – albeit more free – fugue, opening his String Quartet No. 1. Finally, this program comes to its unmistakable conclusion delivered to us by Beethoven through his eternal Grosse Fuge, Op. 133, which Igor Stravinsky famously described as “an absolutely contemporary piece of music that will be contemporary forever.”
2020-2021 Program Choices
Program I: Memory Lane
Borodin: Quartet No. 2 in D minor
Matan Porat: New Work, commissioned by Ann and Harry Santen for the Ariel Quartetʼs 20th-Anniversary Season
Beethoven: Quartet in E minor, Op. 59, No. 2
It isn't unusual for quartets to grow old together, however, not many started their journey at 14 years of age, maturing together professionally and personally. “Memory Lane” includes two of the first pieces we ever played which are uniquely significant to us since they sparked our love for the string quartet genre. The middle piece is a special anniversary commission by Matan Porat, one of the most exciting composers of our generation and a close friend of the Quartet. It is conceived with the intention of bringing our personal story to the front of the stage, with humor, wit, and a reflective spirit.
Program II: My Favorite Things
Mozart: Quartet in C major, K. 465, “Dissonance”
Berg: String Quartet, Op. 3
Beethoven: Quartet in E-flat major, Op. 127
People often ask us about our favorite piece of music. The answer to this question is complicated, especially as we get to dive into some of the best repertoire ever written on a regular basis and inevitably fall in love easily. We do, however, feel that some pieces have special personal significance for us. “My Favorite Things” highlights three masterworks that were composed and perfected each in its own time, and yet we feel that they're still alive and evolving with every performance. The more we play them the more fascinated we become with new layers we discover.
Program III: Homage to Three Heroes
Mozart: Quartet in G major, K. 387 (Amadeus Quartet)
Ligeti: Quartet No. 2, dedicated to the LaSalle quartet (LaSalle Quartet)
Brahms: Quartet in B-flat major, Op. 67 (Cleveland Quartet)
“Homage to Three Heroes” is dedicated to the three quartets who were a constant source of inspiration for us and with whom we had the honor of working throughout our formative years.
Mozart’s Quartet in G major, K. 387, for the Amadeus Quartet
We count ourselves lucky to have been able to work with members of the Amadeus Quartet on multiple occasions. The cheeky Viennese charm with which Siegmund Nissel sang the second theme of the first movement will forever stay with us.
Ligeti’s Quartet No. 2 for the LaSalle Quartet
With his endless curiosity and uncompromising dedication to realize each composer’s wish, Walter Levin played a key role in our musical lives. It was he who planted the seed in us to continue to explore and commission new works for the genre. We’re so grateful that the group of Cincinnati supporters who made his dream a reality with works such as the Ligeti are still dedicated to making it possible for us as well.
Brahms Quartet in B-flat major, Op. 67 for the Cleveland Quartet
Having grown up on the Cleveland Quartetʼs recordings, their guidance and support were of special significance to our quartet. Paul Katz paved the way for us to come to the United States, and we are fortunate to have explored so much of the string quartet repertoire together with him. The Clevelandʼs benchmark rendition of the Op. 67 Brahms quartet continues to remain a source of inspiration.