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CONTACT: Christian Camozzi, Music Department (650) 723-3811

St. Lawrence String Quartet to join Stanford University as Ensemble-in-Residence

The internationally acclaimed St. Lawrence String Quartet will assume the position of ensemble-in-residence at Stanford University and join the faculty of the Department of Music, beginning with the academic year 1998-99. The quartet, consisting of first violinist Geoff Nuttall, second violinist Barry Shiffman, violist Lesley Robertson and cellist Marina Hoover, will perform regularly on campus and direct the department's chamber music program and string program.

This appointment is the result of an extensive search that attracted applications from a large number of first-rate ensembles. "The St. Lawrence String Quartet impressed us above all with the range of their interpretative approaches," said department chairman Stephen Hinton. "They do not play everything the same, far from it. They seem to tackle each of the pieces they perform from a very broad repertoire on its own terms."

Associate Professor Jonathan Berger, who chaired the ensemble search committee, called the quartet "an astonishing combination of grace and chutzpah. These exciting performers make bold and beautiful musical statements."

Named after the St. Lawrence River, which cuts across the North American continent, the ensemble has strong ties to both Canada and the United States. Nuttall, the first violinist, moved from his native Texas to London, Ontario, and studied at the University of Western Ontario and the University of Toronto. Shiffman, the second violinist, was born and educated in Toronto, where he studied at the Royal Conservatory of Music and the University of Toronto. Robertson, the violist, received her first degree from the University of British Columbia and advanced degrees from the Curtis Institute and the Juilliard School, while Hoover, the cellist, earned degrees at the Curtis Institute and Yale University. Both Robertson and Hoover are Edmonton natives.

"We were thrilled to discover that Stanford students have wide-ranging interests, in addition to being wonderful performers. I don't think we'd find such broad-minded students at more performance-oriented schools," Shiffman said. "Since we work so much with living composers and have such a strong interest in new music, we're eager to work with Stanford's composition faculty and its famed computer music program."

The St. Lawrence String Quartet has played in many prestigious international venues. After winning both the Fourth Banff International String Quartet Competition and the Young Concert Artists International Auditions in 1992, the quartet made critically acclaimed debuts in New York City at the 92nd Street "Y," the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and the Paris Opera.

In October 1993, at the invitation of Isaac Stern, the quartet performed at the White House for President and Mrs. Clinton, as part of an evening that honored the recipients of the National Medal of the Arts. During the 1994-95 season, the group toured Japan and gave debut performances at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Wigmore Hall in London and DSN in Dieppe. They have had return engagements in Amsterdam and Paris, including the Concertgebouw, Radio France and Théâtre de la Ville. They also have played at festivals in Europe, including the Turku Festival in Finland and the Festival Consonances in St. Nazaire, France.

The quartet has toured extensively in North America, performing in New York City at Lincoln Center's Great Performances series and the Mostly Mozart Festival, as well as in return engagements to Washington, D.C., Boston, Kansas City, Chicago, La Jolla, Montreal, Toronto (including a three-concert series for Music Toronto), Ottawa, Calgary, Banff, Edmonton and Vancouver (nine concerts for Music in the Morning). They also have played at many of the great American music festivals, including the Spoleto USA Festival in Charleston, S.C.; the Newport Festival in Rhode Island; the Rockport Festival in Massachusetts; and the Cape and Island Festival on Cape Cod.

In the 1997-98 season, they performed at Boston's Jordan Hall for the Bank of Boston Celebrity Series, for the opening seasons of the Chan Centre in Vancouver and the Winspear Centre in Edmonton, and at New York's Lincoln Center. The quartet also performed in Brazil and Mexico, returned to Europe for Holland's Ijsbreker Festival and the Théâtre de la Ville in Paris, and traveled as far afield as Vietnam, where they performed a special televised concert. They recently secured an exclusive recording contract with EMI.

In deciding to come to Stanford, Shiffman says, "We were looking for a place to hang our hat. The reality of full-time performing is that you need a place to come home to that is musically nurturing. Collaborating with students will help us recharge our batteries."

Formed in the fall of 1989, the St. Lawrence String Quartet studied in a program jointly sponsored by the University of Toronto and the Royal Conservatory of Music. Following this solid grounding, they were invited as the first quartet to participate in a new two-year residency program at the Hartt School of Music at Hartford University, where they received intensive coaching with the renowned Emerson String Quartet. They were appointed Graduate String Quartet-in-Residence at the Juilliard School and performed duties as teaching assistant to the members of the Juilliard String Quartet. They later filled a similar position at Yale as teaching assistant to the Tokyo String Quartet.

Drawing on their extensive training, they contributed to the development of music in North America through a number of unique programs. In Kansas City, for example, they joined with Robert Kapilow and the members of the Ying String Quartet to create an original year-long program, Music-Connection, for the Kansas City Friends of Chamber Music, bringing music to thousands of new listeners. Other residency programs were subsequently developed for the Disney Institute in Orlando and the Carnegie Hall Foundation in New York City.

The St. Lawrence String Quartet is actively involved in the commissioning and performing of new works. Composers such as Patrick Cardy, Christos Hatzsis, Osvaldo Goligov and Chris Paul Harmon are writing new works, some incorporating multimedia collaborations, especially for the quartet.

In auditioning at Stanford, Shiffman notes that the quartet relied heavily on new music. "We played R. Murray Shafer's String Quartet No. 3, which is a very theatrical piece ­ a bit of a risk in coming to a new school. But at Stanford, we found there was an open, welcoming attitude to music we feel close to."

About their playing, Hinton says, "Their music-making combines a commitment to expressivity with the best insights of the historical performance practice movement. Their playing of Haydn, for example, was at once rhythmically subtle in its phrasing and rich-toned."

Adds Berger, "Whether they are performing a Haydn quartet or one of the many quartets that they commissioned, their performances exude absolute commitment to the music, intelligent and well-informed interpretations and, above all, electricity.

"The St. Lawrence Quartet will be a tremendous addition to cultural life at Stanford and in the Bay Area," Berger added. "They will form the cornerstone of the Music Department's commitment to a rich and vibrant chamber music program."

For more information about the St. Lawrence String Quartet and their upcoming concerts on the Stanford campus, contact the Stanford University Department of Music; Braun Music Center; Stanford, CA 94305-3076; (650) 723-3811.


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