Koerner Quartet Proves That Classical Music Can Be For Young People Too


I forgot how much I enjoy the music of Tchaikovsky. While I wouldn’t consider myself a classical music “fan”, I was exposed to it from a young age. Whether it was being taken to the symphony by parents, listening to Disc Drive during car rides, ore having played during dinnertime, there was always plenty of music of old-time string arrangements to choose from. Hence, this is why I chose to accept an invitation to see the Koerner Quarter featuring three rising of the Vancouver Academy of Music at VAM’s concert hall on Sunday. And it was a delight.

A big part of any classical music/orchestral/symphony show is the style and tradition. Performing in suits and evening gowns, entering and exiting after each performance and rising to applause. It was all very formal, but a nice formality that did not come off as pedantic or trivial. They even relaxed it at times when both first violinist Nicholas Wright and cellist and founder Joseph Ellworthy stood and talked to the audience about the performance and VAM’s rising star program.

For the uneducated, classical music may appear to be a dull set of tunes that entertains octogenarians with nothing better to do, as well as the high class elite. While this may have been true in Elizabethan times, in today’s day-and-age, the concert viewers run the gamut. (And the performers too. Trisha Doo, one of the rising stars who played with the quartet is only 18). Classical music is also one of the most varied styles of music in existence. From the early baroque pieces of Bach to the modern stylings of John Philip Sousa, classical music is defined by periods that are distinct in tempo, sound and key.

The summer serenade show by the Koerner Quartet focused on the romantic era of music. (Generally considered to have begun in early 19th century). Specifically, three composers were on the bill – Giacomo Puccini, Leos Janacek, and the aforementioned Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The three could not be more different.

The show started off with Chrysanthemumsa dark and haunting piece by one of the greatest operatic composers. This stood in stark contrast to the 17 minute cacophonous, frenzied hostile takeover that was Leos Janacek’s Kreutzer Sonata. I was previously unfamiliar with the Czech folklorist, whose music sounded a bit Wagnerian and always seemed to be on the verge of a mental breakdown. There is so much packed into those 17 minutes, that it’s no wonder came right after. It is exhausting just listening to that.

Then there is the Russian God. Then there is the man whose brilliant, often upbeat compositions often stood in direct competition to his complex, and dark personal life. A man who wrote so many masterpieces and opuses within his 53 years, that his name certainly has be in contention for the greatest composer ever. Yes, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was the classical world’s Robin Williams; the Oscar Wilde of Russia. His Souvenir de Florence is a breathtaking and incredibly moving body of work. An inspiring work that is undeniably beautiful, it seems to have the beginnings of modern, 20th century music infused in its core. Alternately fast and slow, Souvenir de Florence served as the icing on the cake to already spectacular show.

I had a chance to speak, with cellist Trisha Doo about the show and her love of classical music. At 18, Doo has already achieved more than many musicians will in a lifetime. At 15 she performed at perhaps the most iconic venue in the world – Carnegie Hall – and last year took part in a VAM Tour of Hong Kong. In the fall, she will begin her studies at the Oberlin Conservatory, where she has received a full scholarship. The romantic era, is also her personal favourite, so this concert was a great way to close out her performance with VAM. Her cousin also happens to be Adrian Fung of the Afiara String Quartet.

Doo serves as a reminder that classical music isn’t just for old people. While she acknowledges that there is a certain cultural aspect ingrained in her love of the symphony, classical music can speak to us in a myriad of ways that modern rock concerts – with their pyrotechnics and glam make-up – cannot. Sometimes, keeping things simple and traditional is the way to go.

The Koerner Quartet is:

Nicholas Wright – violin
Jason Ho – violin
Emilie Grimes – viola
Joseph Ellworthy – Cello

The VAM Rising Stars:
Esther Hwang – violin
Enoch Ng – viola
Trisha Doo – cello

visit them at http://www.koernerquartet.com

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