On July 19, Grammy-winning guitarist Jason Vieaux and the Escher Quartet release Dance on Azica Records. The album captures three quintets they have performed extensively for the past decade around the United States and abroad: Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Guitar Quintet, Op. 143; Aaron Jay Kernis’ 100 Greatest Dance Hits; and Luigi Boccherini’s Guitar Quintet No. 4, “Fandango.”
“When we first played with Jason Vieaux over 10 years ago, we immediately realized what a special connection we had with him,” says violinist Adam Barnett-Hart. “These works are three of our favorite quintets because they are high-energy and demanding for the performers, but also extremely fun and exciting for audiences. After performing them with Jason so many times over the years, we are thrilled to see our interpretations realized in a more permanent form.”
Vieaux echoes, “We’ve always had such a great time playing and hanging out together, and they are truly one of the finest quartets around. I had wanted to perform the Aaron Jay Kernis quintet for a long time, but it takes an ensemble of musicians that have a high-level rhythmic sense and execution in order to play it well. We’re delighted to present this performance on our new record.”
100 Greatest Dance Hits (1993) represents the lighter side of Kernis' musical personality. He originally intended the quintet to reflect early 1990s popular styles, but found himself drawn more to the sounds of the 1970s. He explains, "I borrowed the title from those old K-Tel advertisements on late night TV for 100 Greatest Motown Hits or 100 Greatest Soul Hits." Each of the four movements embraces – or pokes affectionate fun at – a different musical genre.
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco composed his Guitar Quintet at the request of long-time friend and great Spanish guitarist Andrés Segovia. Segovia was asked to participate in a Los Angeles Music Guild chamber music concert and acquiesced only on the condition that Castelnuovo-Tedesco compose a new work to enrich the contemporary guitar chamber music literature. Segovia premiered the quintet in 1951 with the Paganini Quartet, and it has become a mainstay of the repertoire.
While many of his symphonies survive, Luigi Boccherini made his impact primarily in the realm of chamber music and composed an enormous amount for guitar. What makes his Guitar Quintet No. 4 memorable is its finale, which consists of a dramatic slow introduction that leads to a Fandango, the Spanish dance in moderately fast triple meter that first appeared in the 18th century.
About Jason Vieaux
Grammy-winner Jason Vieaux, “among the elite of today's classical guitarists” (Gramophone), is the guitarist that goes beyond the classical. NPR describes Vieaux as, “perhaps the most precise and soulful classical guitarist of his generation.”
Among his extensive discography is the 2015 Grammy Award winning album for Best Classical Instrumental Solo, Play. Other recordings include the world premiere recording of Jonathan Leshnoff’s Guitar Concerto (Naxos); a performance of Jeff Beal’s “Six Sixteen” Guitar Concerto with the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra (BIS); Infusion (Azica) with accordionist/bandoneonist Julien Labro; Ginastera’s Guitar Sonata, on Ginastera: One Hundred (Oberlin Music) produced by harpist Yolanda Kondonassis; Together (Azica), a duo album with Kondonassis; a recording of Astor Piazzolla’s music with Julien Labro and A Far Cry Chamber Orchestra; Bach: Works for Lute, Vol. 1; Images of Metheny; and Sevilla: The Music of Isaac Albeniz.
Performance highlights include the Caramoor Festival as artist-in-residence, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, the Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires, the Royal Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, New York’s 92nd Street Y, and the Ravinia Festival. He has forged his reputation as a first-rate chamber musician and programmer through performances with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Bard Music Festival, Music@Menlo, San Francisco Performances, Cleveland Chamber Music Society, Strings Music Festival, Grand Teton, and many others.
He has appeared as a soloist with over 100 orchestras, including Cleveland, Toronto, Houston, Nashville, San Diego, Buffalo, Auckland Philharmonia, and Orchestra of St. Luke’s. Vieaux’s passion for new music has fostered premieres by Jonathan Leshnoff, Avner Dorman, Jeff Beal, Dan Visconti, David Ludwig, Vivian Fung, and José Luis Merlin.
In 2012, the Jason Vieaux School of Classical Guitar was launched with ArtistWorks Inc., an unprecedented technological interface that provides one-on-one online study with Vieaux for guitar students around the world. In 2011, he co-founded the guitar department at the Curtis Institute of Music, and in 2015 was invited to inaugurate the guitar program at the Eastern Music Festival. Vieaux has taught at the Cleveland Institute of Music since 1997, heading the guitar department since 2001.
Vieaux has received a Naumburg Foundation top prize, a Cleveland Institute of Music Distinguished Alumni Award, First Prize at the Guitar Foundation of America International Guitar Competition, and a Salon de Virtuosi Career Grant. Vieaux was the first classical musician featured on NPR’s Tiny Desk series. He plays a 2013 Gernot Wagner guitar with Augustine strings. Learn more on Jason Vieaux’s website.
About the Escher Quartet
The Escher String Quartet has received acclaim for its expressive, nuanced performances that combine unusual textural clarity with a rich, blended sound. A former BBC New Generation Artist, the quartet has performed at the BBC Proms at Cadogan Hall and is a regular guest at Wigmore Hall. In its hometown of New York, the ensemble serves as Season Artists of The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.
Championed by the Emerson Quartet, the Escher Quartet was invited by both Pinchas Zukerman and Itzhak Perlman to be Quartet in Residence at each artist’s summer festival: the Young Artists Programme at Canada’s National Arts Centre; and the Perlman Chamber Music Programme on Shelter Island, NY. The quartet has since collaborated with David Finckel, Leon Fleischer, Wu Han, Lynn Harrell, Cho Liang Lin, Joshua Bell, Paul Watkins and David Shifrin, as well as jazz saxophonist Joshua Redman, vocalist Kurt Elling, legendary Latin artist Paquito D’Rivera and Grammy award-winning guitarist Jason Vieaux. In 2013, the quartet was awarded the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant.
The Escher Quartet regularly performs at Alice Tully Hall in New York, Kennedy Center in Washington DC, Chamber Music San Francisco, and the Ravinia, Caramoor and Music@Menlo festivals. In Europe, the quartet has performed at Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Berlin Konzerthaus, London’s Kings Place, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Slovenian Philharmonic Hall, Auditorium du Louvre and Les Grand Interprètes series in Geneva. Festival appearances include Heidelberg Spring Festival, Incontri in Terra di Siena Festival, Dublin’s Great Music in Irish Houses, Risør Chamber Music Festival in Norway, Budapest’s kamara.hu, Hong Kong International Chamber Music Festival and Perth International Arts Festival in Australia.
As String Quartet in Residence at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas and Tuesday Musical in Akron, Ohio, the quartet fervently supports the education of young musicians and has given masterclasses at institutions such as the Royal Academy of Music in London and Campos do Jordão Music Festival in Brazil.
In 2017, the quartet released an album featuring Tchaikovsky, Borodin, and Dvorak (BIS), which Gramophone hailed as “a disc to revive jaded palates, and a highly rewarding example of the state of the art in 21st-century quartet-playing.” Previously, the quartet recorded the complete Mendelssohn quartets (BIS) and the complete Zemlinsky String Quartets in two volumes (Naxos).
The Escher Quartet takes its name from Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher, inspired by Escher’s method of interplay between individual components working together to form a whole. Learn more on the Escher String Quartet’s website.