Chatting With Parker Quartet
CCS: How was Parker Quartet conceived? How long have you known each other and made music together?
PQ: The quartet was formed in 2002 while we were students at The New England Conservatory in Boston. We had met each other in differen combinations just prior to this, and we began playing together simply because we respected each other and thought it would be fun to make music together. I don't think anyone could have predicted then that 15 years later we'd still have respect for each other and would still have fun making music together!
CCS: What do you think makes Parker Quartet unique?
PQ: What makes a string quartet unique is the make-up of the four individuals inside the group, the experiences they've shared together and separately, and the mentors that have guided and inspired the group. Uniqueness is not something consciously created, but rather, a trait that naturally stems from integrity, conviction, and the ability to make an impact with what you have to say. That being said, some aspects of our quartet from inception to now, have never changed. We always strive to put the music first, play at the highest level and continue growing as musicians. Our range of repertoire is something we care about deeply. It is rare to find a quartet offering the core quartet repertoire alongside European avant-garde music on a regular basis. Our roles as educators are also very important to us. Being the first full-time quartet-in-residence at Harvard University while also holding a visiting residency at the University of South Carolina, are two experiences that continue to shape our approach to teaching.
CCS: How did it feel to win a Grammy Award?
PQ: More than anything, it was a huge surprise! When we set out to record the complete Ligeti quartets we had absolutely no expectation of winning a Grammy. We went to the festivities in Los Angeles to have a good time, and we walked away actually winning a Grammy! We are always thankful to be recognized for our work, and this was no exception.
CCS: How do you approach Parker Quartet’s style of collaboration in rehearsals and performances? How do you work well as a unit?
PQ: Our most fulfilling way of making music is when there is a quality of hyper-sensitive listening, when everyone is sharing their most creative energy, when we are truly "speaking" to each other, and when it feels as though spontaneity effortlessly arises out of this group dynamic.
CCS: Could you tell us a little more about your involvement with the Music For Food project?
PQ: Music For Food is the brainchild of one our mentors, Kim Kashkashian. There are an extraordinary amount of people in this country that are food insecure and fight hunger on a daily basis. Kim wanted to find a way through the sharing of music to create an opportunity for social change and to help strengthen the communities around us. The donations from each MFF concert go to different hunger-relief organizations. Now in its 7th season, Music For Food has provided over 450,000 meals to those who need it. We've had the honor to partner with Music For Food almost every year since it began.
CCS: What are the biggest challenges and rewards of playing these three Russian composers we’ll be hearing on October 28th?
PQ: The work of every composer has its challenges. With Stravinsky it is capturing the eccentricity and character of his music with the utmost clarity and precision; with Shostakovich, communicating the depth of power, despair, and hope is a never-ending effort; and with Prokofiev, one faces just a remarkable spectrum of moods and colors whether it's biting irony or beauty of the most heartfelt kind. It will be one exhausting evening!
CCS: Is there anything else we should know or think about before we hear you at Candlelight Concert Society?
PQ: Every time we step out on stage, our hope is that audiences will allow themselves to fall into the music. To create this kind of environment, we invite everyone to listen to this great music together with us and to open themselves to what this music may be trying to tell us.
We love hearing firsthand why people appreciate Candlelight Concert Society.
CCS: When did you first fall in love with music, and when did your violin studies begin?
SJ: I began playing the violin when I was four. I think I enjoyed the process of taking lessons and seeing my progress, but it wasn’t until I actually started playing interesting repertoire a few years later that I first fell in love with music. I remember, when I was 8 years old, I tagged along with my parents to Vienna, where they were attending a physics conference. At the time, I was learning the Mozart’s 3rd violin concerto, the first masterpiece I studied. Being in Vienna, the city of music, which is steeped in musical history, and practicing the Mozart concerto, was a transformative experience for me.
CCS: How does it feel to fulfill your dream of becoming a full-time professional performer?
SJ: It really is a dream. I feel immensely lucky to travel the world, studying and performing musical masterpieces for dedicated, thoughtful listeners. Even my daily life off-stage is pretty awesome — I wake up, drink some coffee, and spend the day contemplating Brahms. Not a bad way to spend a Tuesday.
CCS: What is the craziest, funniest or scariest experience you ever had while performing?
SJ: Let’s see… several years ago, I went on a recital tour of Asia. The first concert was in Seoul, Korea, and I foolishly chose to take a flight that landed in Seoul at 4am, the morning of the recital. I got to the hotel around 6am, showered and ate breakfast, and was picked up at 8am to rehearse, and do some promotional activities (interviews, etc) for the evening’s performance. I was feeling pretty tired by 4pm (3am NYC time!), but I thought that adrenaline would kick in and carry me through the 8pm recital until 10pm. I was very wrong. I fainted backstage during intermission, after what must have been a rocky first half, and the backstage crew basically pushed me back onstage for the second half. The first piece on the second half was Beethoven Spring Sonata, a piece I’d performed several times before. But, in my totally jet lagged, exhausted, state, I lost my bearings in the first movement and couldn’t find my way back into the correct phrase. Cacophony ensued for several seconds, which felt like an eternity. Now, I arrive at least a day in advance of international concerts...
CCS: What are you most looking forward to in this particular program with Candlelight Concert Society?
SJ: I’m looking forward to taking the listeners on a journey into Brahms’ life. His relationship with Clara Schumann. The many, different, sides to his musical identity. And, the heartbreaking sense of unfulfilled longing that fills so much of his music.
Learn more about Stefan Jackiw and Anna Polonsky in their own words.
Video Conversation with Anna Polonsky
Anna has established herself as an extraordinary solo and collaborative pianist. She shares her thoughts on Brahms, Stefan Jackiw and her performing career.
Video Conversation with Stefan Jackiw
Stefan Jackiw took time to tell us how excited he is to join us on the October 8th concert. Hear more about his work with Anna and the program they've planned for us.