The Bullock Performance Institute’s Live and Interactive! series continued on Wednesday with the Euclid Quartet.
The quartet consists of Jameson Cooper, originally from Great Britain and Jacob Murphy, originally from the United States on Violin, Luis Enrique Vargas (Venezuela) on Viola, and Si-Yan Darren Li (China) on Cello. The group played Franz Joseph Haydn’s “String Quartet Number 68 in D Minor, Opus 103, Hob. III:83,” followed by Charles Ives’ “String Quartet Number 1: From the Salvation Army.” After a short break, they finished with Franz Schubert’s “String Quartet Number 14 in D Minor D.810 (“Death and the Maiden”).”
The Western Herald got a chance to catch up with the quartet after the show.
Western Herald (WH): What were your biggest musical influences?
Luis Enrique Vargas (LEV): I guess we kind of, over the years, just been different, you know? I mean we’ve been around for 13 years, and we did a lot of chamber music festivals and what not like Aspen Music Festival, so I would say probably in our earlier years, Aspen was probably the place we had the most influence from and that was probably Juilliard Quartet and Emerson Quartet was up there, and Guarneri, too, I think, were our coaches. So we were there for two years, I mean two consecutive summers. So I would say that for the beginning. I mean after that, we kind of just didn’t get to play much more…
Jacob Murphy (JM): I would say after that point, our work on studying the Beethoven quartets. We went through all of the Beethoven quartets, and then our work studying the Bartok quartets. I think I’d say in recent years, those have been our biggest influences. They’re such incredibly rich works of music, both emotionally and compositionally. They’re just endlessly fascinating, endlessly challenging and endlessly rewarding.
WH: How did you each individually become part of the Euclid Quartet?
Jameson Cooper (JC): It started off with us two (Cooper and Murphy). We were in grad school together at Kent State University, and Luis joined us in 2001, when we moved to Sioux City, and that was our first job out there and Si-Yen joined us 4 years ago now?
Si-Yen Darren Li (SYDL): 2009
JC: 3 years ago?
JC: That’s sort of since we were in South Bend.
WH: What have been the quartet’s biggest accomplishments?
JC: Well Jacob’s mentioned the Bartok quartets. We recently finished recording all six Bartok quartets and that’s been a big project for us, a lot of work and it’s good to have it behind us and the second CD in the set is coming out this December, so that’s been a really huge project. We’ve done a lot of educational work as well, especially with younger children, elementary school children. I think it’s safe to say that we’ve introduced hundreds, if not thousands of kids to classical string quartet music at this point. Hopefully there’s some interest in those young minds, and some of those minds won’t be that young anymore, to take the same path, or at least become audience members.
WH: What are the future goals of the quartet?
LEV: Continue doing lots of recordings. Learning, just learning more music.
JC: There’s a lot of quartet music out there. I think we’re ready to revisit Beethoven. We took a little break from Beethoven after we did our cycle, so I think probably going for a second pass on that.
LEV: Just doing the same but more.
JC: Yeah, more of the same. We haven’t really performed internationally much, so I’m hoping we can break out of these borders and perform across the world. That would be nice. Even if we have no goals at all, there’s still lots of music to just learn all the time. That’s the nice thing about a quartet is it’s easy to collaborate with other musicians as well. There’s some great quintets and sextets and things out there, so hopefully we get to play with some of our idols.
WH: What’s it like having all the different backgrounds and cultures that you each bring to the table?
LEV: It’s a good thing for us to have that variety in our blood. It just adds a lot of personality and brings a different perspective from each of us and everybody brings a different, unique style to the music.
JM: I like that, with Luis being from Venezuela, if there’s any hint of any kind of Latin rhythm anywhere, he’s gonna find it and we’re gonna be able to bring that out.
JC: It’s interesting. Being in a string quartet, one of the things you strive for is a uniform approach in many ways, but how you arrive at that is interesting, especially with a group like this where each one of us is from such a different background, the process of actually getting to that uniform approach can be a rocky road at times. We don’t always agree on things. The fact that we have to work it out actually ends up, the result is growth, you know, a deeper artistic exploration than if we were all just to agree right from the beginning. It kind of forces us to examine things pretty closely.
SYDL: But also, just so you know, although we came from different countries, the four of us, we all went to school here. Yeah, I was born in Beijing, but I grew up in Philadelphia, and I went to school in Philly and afterwards at Juilliard, and Luis also was in Canada and he was in the States. So in terms of playing, the style of playing and the training we got, I would say it’s heavily American influenced. It’s not something so different that we don’t really understand each other.
WH: How have your trips to Kalamazoo and Western Michigan University been?
JC: It’s great. We’ll be back on Friday, actually.
LEV: Yeah, it’s a short trip.
JC: Today was just a performance, but we’re also working with the students on Friday, the class with some student chamber music groups, and reading some student compositions as well. So it’s wonderful that we’re nearby enough to this great university that we can come and be a part of the great program here.
The Wednesday Live and Interactive series runs every week in the Dalton Recital Hall, beginning at 7:30 p.m. For a full program of events on the series, visit http://www.wmich.edu/music/events.