By ANGIE CARNATHAN
The St. Lawrence String Quartet will perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Lee Hall’s Bettersworth Auditorium on the campus of Mississippi State University. The concert concludes MSU’s Lyceum Series for the 2011-12 school year. General admission is $15 for all not holding season tickets. Advance purchases may be made at http://www.lyceum.msstate.edu .
The group, which has been performing for 23 years, is a four-member string quartet from Canada and is considered among that country’s premiere chamber ensembles. The three-man, one-woman musical team was founded in 1989 and includes violinists Geoff Nuttall and Scott St. John, violist Lesley Robertson and cellist Christopher Costanza.
Robertson is a founding member of the group, as is Nuttall. Costanza joined the quartet in 2003, and violinist St. John joined in 2006. Depending on concert repertoire, Nuttall and St. John alternate the role of first violin. All four members of the quartet live and teach at Stanford University.
The quartet said in a release it is deeply committed to bringing music to less traditional venues outside the classroom or concert hall. Regardless of the venue, the St. Lawrence players said they maintain a strong desire to share the wonders of chamber music with their listeners, a characteristic of the foursome that has led them to a more informal performance style than one might expect from chamber musicians.
“Play every concert like it’s your last; every phrase like it’s the most important thing you’ve ever said,” Nuttall said. “Remember that the only reason you’re there is to make people cry, ... sweat and shiver, and give them that incredible sense of creation happening before your eyes. That’s the reason we all play. Otherwise, there’s no point.”
According to the group’s website, the St. Lawrence String Quartet has developed a reputation as a world-class chamber ensemble. The quartet performs over 120 concerts annually worldwide and continues to build its reputation through a commitment to the great established quartet literature as well as the championing of new works by such composers as John Adams, Osvaldo Golijov, Eziquiel Vinao and Jonathan Berger.
Three years after the group’s establishment, it won first prize in the Banff International String Quartet Competition and the Young Concert Artists International Auditions.
The group’s recordings have been honored with the German Critics Award and Canada’s Juno Award for their release of Schumann’s 1st and 3rd quartets.
In October 2011, the St. Lawrence String Quartet premiered “Kohelet,” a new work by Osvaldo Golijov, which was composed for them.
This work, which was co-commissioned by Stanford Lively Arts and Carnegie Hall, built upon the success of a previous collaboration, which culminated in the twice-Grammy-nominated recording of the composer’s “Yiddishbbuk” in 2002.
A New York Times review described the said the quartet’s sound as one “... that has just about everything one wants from a quartet, most notably precision, warmth and an electricity that conveys the excitement of playing whatever is on their stands at the moment,”
The New Yorker’s Alex Ross said, “the St. Lawrence are remarkable not simply for the quality of their music making, exalted as it is, but for the joy they take in the act of connection.”
The quartet continues to keep a busy touring schedule. Some 2011- 2012 season highlights include visits to: Baltimore, Md.; Cincinnati, Ohio; Ann Arbor, Mich.; Toronto, Canada; Philadelphia, Pa.; Montreal, Canada; Durham, N.C. and New Orleans, La., as well as a return to Australia in the spring of 2012. During the summer season, St. Lawrence continues its long association with the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, S.C. and Bay Chamber Concerts in Rockport, Maine.
In 2009 the group commissioned five Canadian composers and performed their work across the country to celebrating the 20th anniversary of the quartet’s founding. They also have active working relationships with numerous other composers, including R. Murray Schafer, Christos Hatzis, Ezequiel Viñao, Jonathan Berger, Ka Nin Chan, Roberto Sierra and Mark Applebaum.
According to the group’s biography, the St. Lawrence String Quartet has held the position of Ensemble in Residence at Stanford University since 1998. This residency includes working with music students as well as extensive collaborations with other faculty and departments using music to explore a myriad of topics. Recent collaborations have involved the school of medicine, school of education and the law school. In addition to their appointment at Stanford, the group is considered visiting artists at the University of Toronto. The foursome displays their passion for opening up musical arenas in their annual summer chamber music seminar at Stanford and their work with music educator Robert Kapilow.
For additional information, contact the Lyceum Series office at 662-325-2930 or http://www.lyceum.msstate.edu . For more information on the St. Lawrence Quartet visit http://slsq.com/ .