Garth Newel Piano Quartet opens Logan Chamber Music Series

Garth Newel Piano Quartet

During her 21 years with the Garth Newel Music Center in Warm Springs, Virginia, violist Evelyn Grau has heard a great deal about Chautauqua’s musical reputation, but has never had the chance to perform here.

She and the rest of the Garth Newel Piano Quartet will get that chance when they open the Institution’s Logan Chamber Music Series at 4 p.m. today inside Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall.

“Chautauqua is very well-known among musicians, and it sounds like a great place to play,” Grau said.

The group received their opportunity after Garth Newel board member Sarah Hagen McWilliams put in a recommendation to Marty Merkley, vice president and director of programming.

McWilliams and her family are longtime Chautauquans, and the quartet fits well within Merkley’s overall vision for the Logan Series.

“They bring a passion, excitement and quality presentation to a variety of chamber music composers,” Merkley said. “This start to the chamber music season sets the stage for an adventurous journey from the traditional to the contemporary.”

Along with Grau, the quartet features violinist Teresa Ling, pianist Genevieve Feiwen Lee, and cellist Isaac Melamed.

Despite not always being in the same place at the same time, the musicians are well acquainted with one another — something Ling credits to the overarching chemistry within the group.

Grau and Ling are resident artists at Garth Newel in Virginia, while Lee is a professor of music at Pomona College in Claremont, California.

Melamed began performing with the quartet seven weeks ago, and is only the third cellist in the group’s history. Despite Melamed’s recent induction to the scene, all four feel as though they haven’t missed a beat since he came on board May 1.

“Things felt so great when we read with him,” Ling said. “We auditioned a lot of different cellists and when you find that perfect chemistry, it can be really rare. We feel like things are gelling really well.”

In keeping with Merkley’s traditional-to-contemporary motif, the quartet will perform Piano Quartet No. 2 in E-Flat Major by composer Antonín Dvořák, along with less familiar pieces by French composer Louise Héritte-Viardot and Czech maestro Bohuslav Martinů.

“The Viardot and the Martinů are pieces that are not played incredibly often,” Ling said. “We feel like we want to perform these wonderful little masterpieces because people don’t often hear them. The Dvořák is just a gorgeous piece that I think everybody enjoys.”

Lee added that Héritte-Viardot’s Spanish Quartet, Op. 11, has an added level of modernism in that classical pieces composed by 19th-century women can be a rarity.

“We think it’s a real gem,” Lee said. “It’s a very charming work, and really not played by a lot of people.”

The group is looking forward to their Chautauqua debut and the ability to connect with the Institution’s patrons.

“To some extent, [Chautauqua] reflects what we do here at Garth Newel,” Ling said. “I think the ethos is very similar.”