Violinist Anthea Kreston has toured the world making music, including a stint with Germany’s renowned Artemis String Quartet. But when she came back to Corvallis after four years in Germany, she jumped at a professional opportunity with a rare side benefit.
The Delgani String Quartet, Oregon’s only full-time string quartet, needed a new first violinist. Wyatt True, the former first violinist (and a Delgani founder), was stepping down from the post to focus on serving as the quartet’s executive director. Kreston went to school with True, so they knew each other – and something else was appealing about the job.
“One of the most attractive things was the ability to play full seasons of concerts with no flights or hotels,” Kreston wrote in an email interview. “Delgani has a strong base of supporters in Oregon with a series in Eugene, Corvallis, Salem and Portland. The best of both worlds!”
Delgani is wrapping up its 2021-22 season, its first with Kreston, with a series of shows in those four cities. The program – “Delgani IV: Dance of Joy” – debuts with a performance Friday night at the First Presbyterian Church in Corvallis. (See the information box for details about the concert.)
Like many Delgani programs, this one showcases a modern work and sandwiches it with a pair of older quartets.
The showcase piece is the third quartet by Boston composer Elena Ruehr, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Delgani and Ruehr have some history together – the quartet was among the groups that commissioned Ruehr’s seventh quartet – but for this concert, the quartet will perform her challenging third quartet.
All four of the work’s movements are based in ancient music from different parts of the world. The first movement, for example, was composed on a small toy flute, making use of techniques from the Middle East. The second movement was inspired by Hildegard of Bingen, the 12th century nun and composer. The last two movements rely on African traditions.
“The four movements are all quite different,” Kreston said. “It’s almost like learning four different languages, but they fit together to tell a unique story.”
Delgani also is planning a pair of more familiar pieces to fill out the program, including one of the last quartets written by Joseph Haydn, Op. 76, No. 1. Kreston said the piece is “one of my all-time favorites. It’s so funny, charming and the slow movement is just heartbreaking. Haydn had a great sense of humor, and it has a lot of spontaneous moments.”
The program also includes the Brahms string quartet in B flat, Op. 67 – the last string quartet he wrote. (He only wrote three that have survived.) Kreston said the piece “is thick with sentimentality and tenderness,” and it’s shaped by his lifelong friendship with and love for pianist Clara Schumann, “one of the most legendary love stories of classical music.” The work “transports us all into a magical world of love and unattainable desire,” Kreston said.
As she wraps up her first season with Delgani, Kreston had praise for her musical colleagues (violinist Jannie Wei, violist Kimberlee Uwate and cellist Eric Alterman) as being “very laid-back and easy to work with. It’s been such a pleasure to dig deep into this amazing repertoire and to get to know not only the musicians, but the extended family that supports this group.”
Next up for Delgani: “Soul of Brazil,” recording sessions and concerts with the Brazilian-American composer and pianist Clarice Assad; and a challenging 2022-23 season that includes works such as George Crumb’s “Black Angels.”
“The Delgani is really on a roll,” Kreston said.
If You Go
What: The Delgani String Quartet in concert.
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 20.
Where: First Presbyterian Church, 114 SW Eighth St. in Corvallis.
How much: Tickets are $28 general admission and $5 for students. To buy tickets, click here. After Friday’s concert, the quartet will perform this program in Salem, Eugene and Portland. Both Eugene concerts will be livestreamed. Click here to learn more about Delgani’s schedule and its 2022-23 season.