This past December, in their capacity as Quartet-in-Residence at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM), the Telegraph Quartet organized their fall-term recital around the pioneering music of Arnold Schoenberg. This included not only highly perceptive interpretations by the quartet members, violinists Eric Chin and Joseph Maile, violist Pei-Ling Lin, and cellist Jeremiah Shaw, but also some highly useful commentary prepared and delivered by Maile. This month the ensemble will give its spring-term recital; and the programming promises to be just as ambitious, if not more so.
The major work to be performed will be Robert Sirota’s third string quartet, entitled “Wave Upon Wave.” Sirota’s first three quartets, composed over a span of fifteen years, constitute a trilogy. He began in 2002 with an extended meditation on 9/11 entitled “Triptych.” This was followed by “American Pilgrimage,” expanding the scope of the first settlers to the broader diversity of American spirit across the continent, completed in 2016. “Wave Upon Wave” was commissioned by the Walter W. Naumburg Foundation; and it was given is premiere on February 6, 2018 in Carnegie Hall by the Telegraph Quartet in their capacity as winners of the 2016 Naumburg Competition. While the first two quartets reflected on past and present, respectively, the third quartet looks to the future through, in Sirota’s words, “our fears, our hopes, and our prayers that we will triumph over the forces of darkness which threaten to overwhelm us.”
Robert Sirota (photograph by Brian Hatton, courtesy of Jensen Artists)
The program will also offer John Harbison’s sixth string quartet. This four-movement composition was commissioned by the Tanglewood Music Center through the generous support of the Merwin Geffen, M.D. and Norman Solomon, M.D. New Commissions Fund, with additional commissioning support from a consortium of three string quartets, one of which was Telegraph. The other two were the Lark Quartet and the Ariel Quartet, the latter through support from Ann and Harry Santen and the University of Cincinnati – College-Conservatory of Music. Lark gave the world premiere on April 29, 2017, followed by the New York premiere at Carnegie Hall on May 1. Telegraph gave the West Coast premiere this past October 27 in their Morrison Artists Series recital at San Francisco State University.
The remaining work on the program will offer modernism from the preceding century. This will be Maurice Ravel’s only string quartet. It was completed in 1903, which is about two years earlier than the completion in 1905 of Schoenberg’s (first) quartet in D minor, the major work on Telegraph’s fall program. The program will thus offer complementary perspectives of modernism at the beginning of this century with the modernist rhetoric from about 100 years earlier.
This concert will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 26. The performance will be free of charge, and reservations will not be required. The SFCM building is located at 50 Oak Street, between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street, a short walk from the Van Ness Muni Station. Readers are encouraged to consult the Performance Calendar Web page at the SFCM Web site for the most up-to-date information about this event.