My love of chamber music started early, thanks to my dad, Frank Pelteson. Playing piano and cello duets with him throughout my childhood and teen years made an indelible mark on my psyche. Since then, I have had the pleasure of playing duets and trios with friends and colleagues as well as attending many outstanding chamber music performances at a variety of venues over the years.
At the end-of-season Mason Concert, I had the privilege of making the acquaintance of a fellow avid chamber music enthusiast, Mr. Jim Eninger. Jim diligently provides an extensive and free weekly newsletter highlighting great chamber music performances in the Los Angeles area and surrounds. It is aptly named, The Clickable Chamber Music Newsletter of Southern California. What a wonderful labor of love!
Jim and I were recently corresponding about the upcoming Summer of Brahms Chamber Music Festival this July in South Pasadena.
On researching the event’s website, I learned the festival is the brainchild of the New Hollywood String Quartet. I mentioned to Jim that I wanted to learn the backstory on this spectacular eight-day event and thought it would make for an interesting blog.
Jim recommended interviewing the New Hollywood String Quartet cellist, Andrew Shulman who is also the LACO (Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra) Principal Cellist, and professor of cello at USC Thornton School of Music. Jim graciously e-introduced me to Mr. Shulman who kindly accepted my invitation to be interviewed for the blog.
As luck would have it, as soon as I finalized the interview Q&A, Mr. Shulman’s busy schedule precluded him from completing the interview. On a whim, I Facebook-messaged the NHSQ. To my delight, their violist, Mr. Robert Brophy graciously replied, offering to complete the interview in Mr. Shulman’s stead. I was relieved and pleased. Mr. Brophy can be seen and heard playing with the LACO (Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra), Los Angeles Philharmonic, LA Opera and many west coast chamber music series. He is also the NHSQ’s violist.
I’m very excited to share with you this riveting interview with maestro violist, Mr. Rob Brophy.
Q1. I understand the New Hollywood String Quartet (NHSQ) has been around since 2001, performing at prestigious concert series in Los Angeles and its environs. I love that the members are Angelenos. May I ask, how did you guys find each other? What is the story on how the Quartet came into existence and why?
A1. Well, all the members are not strictly Angelenos. Tereza is from Canada, Rafi is from New York City, Rob is from the UK, and so is Andrew. The quartet has had a few variations in personnel over the years, with Tereza joining us four years ago.
The initial idea of the quartet was to carry on the tradition of the original Hollywood String Quartet, being a group of people who predominantly recorded music for movies and records during the day and came together in the evenings and weekends to perform as a quartet and also record as a group with some of the worlds greatest musicians. They formed in the 1940s and performed and recorded until the 60s. Their output of recordings is some of the most celebrated in the classical repertoire. We are striving to continue this legacy.
Q2. That’s marvelous. I hadn’t heard of the original Hollywood String Quartet before and am pleased to learn about them. How fantastic that your Quartet is carrying on their tradition! May I ask, what are the top three most memorable festivals in which the NHSQ has participated? What made them inspiring?
A2. The NHSQ has not performed in any other festivals. We have only performed in various chamber music series throughout the South Land and the Western US. The ability to create our own festival and to invite some of our friends and colleagues who are some of the best musicians in the world is something we are so proud to present.
Q3. The upcoming Summer of Brahms Chamber Music Festival is the first music festival hosted by the NHSQ. Why Brahms? Why now?
A3. I think it was Rafi that came up with the idea to have a Brahms chamber music festival! We thought it was a little crazy as there are so many pieces, but after thinking about it for a short time, it seemed like a really great idea! We quickly rallied around some of our wonderfully philanthropic supporters and were delighted that they were happy to help bring this idea to life. We hope that this will be the beginning of many ‘Summer’ festivals that focus on a single composer, and we already have irons in the fire regarding Beethoven and Schubert in upcoming years.
Q4. How did the NHSQ decide on a program of all 25 instrumental chamber music works of Johannes Brahms? Were there other contenders for the inaugural program? If so, what were they?
A4. The decision to do all 25 pieces was a no brainer even if it was a monumental task. We felt we couldn’t just pick and choose certain ones, we had to go the whole hog! Stay tuned for future festivals!
Q5. That is very ambitious, indeed, but probably the most daunting task of all, how were the musicians selected for each of the 25 works? I’m assuming you or the members had worked with each of these outstanding musicians over the years? Or were there any newbies?
A5. This was the most fun part of organizing the festival! Because we are hosting the festival, we were given carte blanche as to who to invite. So we really have invited our favorite musicians and friends, some of whom we have never played with, but have always wanted to, some of whom we have played with many times and want to repeat the experience once again. That’s the great thing about summer festivals like this. It’s a huge melting pot of wonderful experiences that bring about some of the most exciting and exhilarating performances not often found in regular Chamber Music concerts.
Q6. For my readers, a list of these stellar guest musicians can be found at the end of the blog. Bringing together these top musicians in one festival is indeed exhilarating. Finding a facility that honors this illustrious event might be tricky. There are many great venues to choose from. Why the Carnegie Stage at the South Pasadena Public Library Community Room? Why the South Pasadena Library’s Restoration Concert Series?
A6. The NHSQ has had a long relationship with the Restoration Concert Series. As we have now been the Quartet in Residence with them for over 10 years, it made total sense to us to use the wonderful hall at the South Pasadena library and also use the skills and knowledge of the wonderful people who run the Restoration Concert Series. The community has really gone above and beyond to assist with housing, rehearsal space, advertising and loving support of this endeavor and we are so happy to showcase South Pasadena as one of the great ‘little cities’ in Los Angeles.
Q7. Will the performances be filmed or recorded? It would be great to share with my students and those who are unable to attend.
A7. Yes, they will be recorded but for archive purposes only.
Good to know. Robert, it was a pleasure to make your acquaintance. Thank you for your heroic efforts in keeping great music and live music performances alive in our culture.
I hope to attend the Wednesday, July 10 and/or the Friday, July 12, concerts if my busy teaching schedule will permit. If my readers or students would like to join me, please comment below so we can arrange to meet up. Thanks.
P.S. A big little thank you to Stephanie Yoon, NHSQ admin assistant, for providing the photos for this blog.
Piano: Bernadene Blaha, Rohan De Silva, Robert Thies, Steven Vanhauwaert, Orion Weiss
Violin: Margaret Batjer, Martin Chalifour, Cho-Liang Lin
Viola: Brian Chen, Paul Neubauer, Johanna Nowik
Cello: Robert deMaine, Lynn Harrell, Paul Watkins
Clarinet: Boris Allakhverdyan
Horn: Amy Jo Rhine
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