Auckland’s Rothko Quartet receive two private masterclasses with David Harrington of Kronos Quartet

Friday, 15 March 2013

Auckland ensemble Rothko Quartet (2012 winners of the Pettman/ROSL Arts International Scholarship) have been greatly inspired by music legends the Kronos Quartet.

In March 2013 when Kronos toured the country with Chamber Music New Zealand Rothko were able to meet them and received two private masterclasses from first violinist and leader David Harrington. 

Following an initial two hour masterclass with Rothko, and during his rehearsal for the Wellington concert on the Monday afternoon, David told the young musicians that he had been thinking about them all night and wanted to give them another class before he left.

As a thank-you gift, Rothko gave David a simple, elegant pounamu made by Aden Hoglund – the same artist who made the taonga given by Prime Minister John Key to President Obama. Before saying good-bye David signed their scores: “All best wishes for great musical adventures to the Rothko Quartet”.

Here’s more from Rothko Quartet on their Kronos Quartet experience…

Emily Bouwhuis, 2nd violin

The Kronos Quartet concert on Monday night in Wellington was one of my most enjoyable concert experiences, in any genre, to date. Never have I felt more captivated and swept away, particularly considering each piece performed was completely new to me. Kronos have been my favourite quartet over the last couple of years, and their recording of Schnittke's 3rd string quartet is one of the main reasons Rothko Quartet is where it is today.

Working and interacting with David Harrington in our master classes was an especially inspirational and unreal experience. His passion and commitment exemplified everything I love about music, and playing in a string quartet in particular. Chamber music is about so much more than merely playing the notes - I've learnt it is about connecting with and supporting fellow quartet members, finding and exploring the central pulse of each work, and ultimately sharing this energy through all aspects of performance with an audience.

I will never be able to thank David and the Kronos Quartet enough for everything they have done for us. It was such an honour that they took time out of their busy schedule to share their worldly experience with us, from Ginsberg in Carnegie Hall to working with Chomsky – a rare glimpse into the life of this contemporary touring quartet. It was an invigorating few days, and accordingly I feel determined to do my best to bring chamber music to life as a member of Rothko Quartet.

Alex McDonald, viola

Back in 2005 I heard my first live chamber music - Kronos Quartet spoke to me on so many levels I couldn't resist their artistic voice. My first CD of theirs is Black Angles - and has forever been an inspiration and excitement to listen to.
David Harrington and the Kronos ensemble welcomed us as part of their family - so generous with his time and energy I felt like I really know what it is like to be a member of the Kronos Quartet.
David Harrington is an artistic genius - his mastery of music making, and lifelong commitment to working with composers is the ideal performing musician.

Harrington talked to us about being a quartet - being totally open and honest when talking to each other - but what struck me was the way he imagined the colours of sounds, the thousands of ways he could craft notes on a page into real living things - 'notes are more than just notes.'

Olivia Francis, 1st violin

Meeting the Kronos Quartet and having classes with David Harrington was one of the most surreal, incredible experiences of my life. It means so much that he would take the time to listen to us, and it was especially significant for Rothko Quartet because Kronos inspired us to learn Schnittke's Quartet No. 3, which has become my favourite quartet. David said something to me which I will never forget: "a note is never just a note". It was great to be reminded that making music is not about playing the black dots on the page, or being concerned with technical mastery.  It is so evident that the Kronos vision is of performing as a communicative art: evoking in the audience a feeling or memory or story, and since meeting David and all the Kronos members, Rothko Quartet hopes to also strive towards this vision.

Cameron Stuart, cello

Meeting the Kronos Quartet and having classes with David Harrington was awe-inspiring. Their commitment to music and performance is wholehearted and incredibly exciting to experience. David was so generous with his time and energy and has made an indelible impression on our development as a string quartet. He has inspired us to be more creative and confident with our repertoire by exploring new technical and musical ideas. For me, the most enlightening aspect was how David helped us explore the powerful union of musical and physical expression. Indeed, we aspire to perform in the compelling way that Kronos is famous for.