North Country native and our favorite violinist Soovin Kim came with his string quartet for a working retreat in the first part of November. The way the Johannes Quartet works is rather interesting – they are not together 52 weeks a year like most quartets. Rather, each member has other primary employment that is very demanding and high-profile. For example, the violist Choong-Jin (C.J.) Chang is Principal Viola of The Philadelphia Orchestra. Peter Stumpf was Principal Cellist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic for 10 years and is now on the cello faculty of the Indiana University. Violinists Soovin Kim and Jessica Lee both have full schedules as guest artists with numerous orchestras and chamber music festivals. All four members of the Johannes Quartet are highly-acclaimed soloists for concertos and recitals and sought-after collaborators in chamber music.
These exceptional four musicians come together for only a few weeks at a time to rehearse and perform (their time together might add up to only a few months a year), but when they do get together it is an intensely productive period. While with us they delved deeply into two Brahms quartets: No. 1 in C Minor, op. 51 (1873) and No. 3 in B-flat Major op. 76 (1875). They shared these works in a pair of informal performances, both free and open to the public, at Lake Forest Senior Community and at the Church in the Hollow in Saranac. It was exciting and breathtakingly beautiful!
Arnold Steinhardt, first violinist of the legendary Guarneri String Quartet, remarked: “The Johannes String Quartet, comprised of four impressively gifted instrumentalists in their own right, have come together to form one of the great chamber music groups of our time. They play with technical polish, with deep musical understanding, and with uncommon inspiration. The Johannes is all I could ever dream of in a string quartet.”