According to violinist Joseph Maile, there will not be a string quartet performance at 4 p.m. today in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall — there will be story time.
“When we approach music, we feel that it is an emotional experience,” he said. “We want to bring that out and the vividness of emotion. We approach it like it’s a story.”
Maile tells this story as part of Telegraph Quartet, the final group in the 2015 Logan Chamber Music Series.
The group’s name is indicative of its spirit, with one eye on the past and the other looking ahead. The “telegraph” in the group’s name partially pays homage to its Bay Area roots, but it also symbolizes a certain philosophy, Maile said.
“We love the quartet tradition, but at the same time we want to play works that are contemporary,” Maile said. “For me, telegraph harkens back to something that is old. At the same time, it was something incredibly innovative because it connected people. It’s the old and the new wrapped up into one.”
That package came together a few years ago in San Francisco. Pei-Ling Lin, the quartet’s violist and Maile’s spouse, attended the Juilliard School around the same time as Maile. Jeremiah Shaw, the group’s cellist, also attended Juilliard. But the quartet wasn’t even an idea while they were at school in New York.
“I don’t think any of us met each other,” Lin said.
“It was kind of a circuitous path for all of us,” Maile said.
It took years of circulating among various chamber music engagements for Maile and Lin to become acquainted, fall in love and settle down in the Bay Area. It was around the time that Shaw approached them with the idea for a chamber group, and, with the addition of violinist Eric Chin, Telegraph Quartet was born.
Together, Maile believes chamber music — and the string quartet in particular — offers a unique quality for audiences to wrap their mind around.
“To me, as incredible and massive as a symphony orchestra is, it’s quite an overwhelming experience,” he said. “At the same time, a string quartet is an intimate experience — a personal experience. There’s something really important for people to experience not just what it sounds like, but how it looks — what’s the drama of our relationship with each other.”
Today, the quartet unleashes that drama through the works of Haydn, Dvořák and Benjamin Britten. The selections span both the lifetime of the string quartet and its composers.
“It’s interesting because with all three quartets, it’s like a little triptych of the musical life of a composer,” Maile said. “One is an early work, one is a middle work, and one is a late one.”
While the quartet has to practice like any other group, Lin said they have the unique advantage of being able to work on parts together at home. In fact, they both said they find themselves unpacking what goes on in a rehearsal once they’re back home. The couple can never really avoid the music, although they both agreed that might not be a bad thing.
“We’re basically talking about it all the time — we’re living our work,” Maile said. “Music for me isn’t a profession, it’s a way of life. We don’t stop.”