Renowned for bringing fresh excitement to traditional string quartet repertoire as well as for creating insightful interpretations of new music, the Chiara String Quartet (Rebecca Fischer and Hyeyung Julie Yoon, violins; Jonah Sirota, viola; Gregory Beaver, cello) captivates its audiences throughout the country. The Chiara has established itself as among America’s most respected ensembles, lauded for its "highly virtuosic, edge-of-the-seat playing" (The Boston Globe). They are currently Blodgett Artists-in-Residence at Harvard University and Hixson-Lied Artists-in-Residence at the Glenn Korff School of Music at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
During their 14th season performing together, the Chiara Quartet is moving forward by taking a cue from the past. Harkening back to a tradition that is centuries old and still common amongst soloists, the Chiara Quartet has adapted to a new way of performing: sans printed sheet music. For almost all of the Quartet’s upcoming concerts, they will be performing by heart. After spending countless hours working towards playing their repertoire from memory, they now feel that the sheet music is a distraction to the performance, instead of an aid. Of the process, the Chiara’s cellist Gregory Beaver says, “The act of performing from memory has been challenging for us. Each member must find a way to know the music inside and out. But the payback for each of us is equally rewarding, bringing us that much closer together in our music-making.” After memorizing a work, the Quartet is rewarded with deeply gratifying performances where each member feels fully present in the moment, truly performing with heart, by heart.
The Chiara's recent honors include the nomination of its recording of Jefferson Friedman’s String Quartet No. 3 for a Grammy Award in 2011 and the ASCAP/Chamber Music America Award for Adventurous Programming for the 2010-2011 season. Past awards include a top prize at the Paolo Borciani International Competition, winning the Astral Artistic Services National Audition, and winning First Prize at the Fischoff Chamber Music Competition. Awarded the Guarneri Quartet Residency Award for artistic excellence by Chamber Music America, the Chiara Quartet has also been the recipient of grants from Meet The Composer, The Aaron Copland Foundation, and the Amphion Foundation.
In addition to the Chiara Quartet’s regular performances in major concert halls across the country, including Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall, Carnegie Hall, Philadelphia's Kimmel Center, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the National Gallery in Washington DC, the ensemble was one of the first string quartets to perform in alternative venues for chamber music performance. The Chiara Quartet performs innovative concerts in non-classical spaces including (le) Poisson Rouge and Galapagos Art Space in New York, The Tractor Tavern in Seattle, Avant Garden in Houston, and the Hideout in Chicago, among many others. Recent highlights of the Chiara Quartet's international performances include extensive tours of China, Korea, and Sweden as well as performances at the American Academy in Rome, the Montreal Chamber Music Festival, and of Steve Reich's Different Trains in Munich.
Described by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer as "vastly talented, vastly resourceful, and vastly committed to the music of their time," the Chiara has commissioned and premiered new works since its inception. In the 2010-11 season the Chiara produced a large-scale project in four cities called Creator/Curator, commissioning new works for string quartet by composers Nico Muhly, Huang Ruo, Daniel Ott and Gabriela Lena Frank. Each composer curated the concert on which his/her piece was premiered, choosing music that complemented and gave context. The Chiara has also commissioned works from Jefferson Friedman, Robert Sirota, Hans Tutschku, Michael Wittgraf, and Carl Voss, among others.
In April 2011, New Amsterdam Records released the Chiara's recording of composer Jefferson Friedman's String Quartets Nos. 2 and 3 to great critical acclaim. Both celebrated pieces, which "already deserve to be heard as classics of this decade" (The New York Times) were commissioned by the Chiara, and are the result of a more than ten-year friendship with the composer. The New York Times called the Chiara’s performances “vital,” and the San Francisco Chronicle commented on the Chiara’s “lush ensemble sound that brings out the hidden depths of Friedman's harmonic language.”
Most recently, the Chiara has recorded a forthcoming album of the complete string quartets of Brahms, entirely from memory. The sessions, with Grammy Award-winning producer Judith Sherman, took place in upstate New York at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall in spring 2012. The complete Chiara discography includes the Mozart and Brahms clarinet quintets with Håkan Rosengren for SMS Classical, and the world premiere recordings of Robert Sirota's Triptych and Gabriela Lena Frank's Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout on the Quartet's own New Voice Singles label.
The Chiara is also featured on Nadia Sirota's debut recording for New Amsterdam Records, first things first, which was included on "Best of" lists in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Time Out New York, and many more. Other recent collaborators of the quartet include The Juilliard String Quartet, Joel Krosnick, Roger Tapping, Todd Palmer, Simone Dinnerstein, Norman Fischer, and Paul Katz, as well as members of the Orion, Ying, Cavani, and Pacifica Quartets.
The Chiara Quartet is widely sought out for its innovative work in engagement with urban and rural communities of all ages throughout the United States. In 2012 the Chiara is appearing with the University Musical Society in Ann Arbor, Michigan as residents in the community, performing in unusual venues including a vacant storefront and a Toyota factory. In 2011, the Chiara was the first judge of the online string quartet competition “The Quartet Project Challenge,” an opportunity for young quartets from around the world to post performances on YouTube of new works by composer Geoffrey Hudson and receive comments from a professional quartet. In the 2011-12 season, the Chiara presented a four concert series at Matt Talbot Kitchen and Outreach, a unique organization serving the working poor and homeless in Lincoln, Nebraska.
In the summer, the Chiara Quartet are in residence at Greenwood Music Camp as well as the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Chamber Music Institute. The Chiara trained and taught at The Juilliard School, mentoring for two years with the Juilliard Quartet, as recipients of the Lisa Arnhold Quartet Residency from 2003-2005.
Chiara (key-ARE-uh) is an Italian word, meaning "clear, pure, or light." More information about the Chiara Quartet can be found online at www.chiaraquartet.net and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/chiarastringquartet.