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Student learning triumphs at Tanglewood: A string quartet workshop recital inaugurates the Gordon Studio

This performance left little doubt that the future of classical music is assured in this magnificent environment and in the hands of these marvelous teachers.

Lenox — Boston University Tanglewood Institute (B.U.T.I.)’s Professor Peter Zazofsky’s pride in his students radiated across this splendid new master-classroom in the Tanglewood Learning Center on June 29, 2019.  As his colleague coaches, Heather Braun, Robert Merfeld, and Owen Young beamed down from the back of the raked auditorium, the next generation played their hearts out for a roomful of friends, visitors, and family bearing cameras.

This celebratory open house was also a serious party, proceeding through 2 and 3- movement samplings of the great, mature string quartets by Schubert (No. 14 in D Minor, “Death and the Maiden,” D.810), Brahms ( No. 3 in B-Flat Major, op. 67), Dvorak (No. 10 in E-flat Major, op. 51), Debussy (Opus 10), and Shostakovich (No. 3 in F major) to a glorious string ensemble arrangement of the Tanglewood anthem, Randall Thompson’s “Alleluia,” in which they were joined by Angela Leeper, double bass. Mr. Zazofsky graciously introduced the concert and the quartets and conducted the closing ensemble.

Cellist Brenton Zhang sustained the rapid flow of ephemeral harmony in the first Movement of the Debussy , first movement of the Debussy Quartet,animé et très decidé,and brought to the second movement, andantino, doucement expressif an apposite sweetness, with a striking unfolding of nuanced vibratos and subtly shifting dynamics. Illustration by Carolyn Newberger


Aimee Co and Natalie Bhak, violins, Katie Siegfried, viola, and Shawn Hsu, cello, performed the first and second movements of the Dvorak quartet with intense concentration. They broke through initial struggles with intonation as they became accustomed to the vivid dynamics of the resonant hall, to a mightily convincing Adagio ma non troppo in which Katie Siegfied’s viola sang with haunting beauty and uncanny depth. Illustration by Carolyn Newberger


Violinist Joseph MacDonald was a commanding presence in the Schubert, gracing the ensemble with focused, velvety tonality and perfect intonation. Illustration: Carolyn Newberger

After this performance, Mr. Zazofsky offered his special thanks to Hilary Respass, Executive Director of B.U.T.I., and Jonathan Newman, B.U.T.I. Program Director, for ushering in an era of excellence.

Cellist Lexine Feng brought a warm and confident foundation to the Presto – Prestissimo final movement of the Schubert Quartet. Illustration by Carolyn Newberger


Violinist Max Ball led the beginning of the Debussy Quartet with knowing aplomb, focusing rhythmic attention on the parade of exotic tonalities. Illustration by Carolyn Newberger


Peter Zazofsky’s conducting is like his violin playing: Confident, emotionally intense, gracious, and relentlessly focused on texture and giving voice to contrapuntal nuances. Photo: Eli Newberger

Immersed in a crowd of enthusiastic students, Mr. Zazofsky brought the concert to a stirring close, pulling lines from within to the foreground and provoking no few tears from the players and the audience.

This performance left little doubt that the future of classical music is assured in this magnificent environment and in the hands of these marvelous teachers.


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