Music

A world-class string quartet in the pines

Borromeo ensemble shines in performances at the Hotel St. Bernard and the Taos Community Auditorium

By Laura Bulkin
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 6/26/19

The Borromeo String Quartet is a group of very busy musicians. In addition to their many performing and recording commitments, they pay it forward academically as ensemble-in-residence …

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Music

A world-class string quartet in the pines

Borromeo ensemble shines in performances at the Hotel St. Bernard and the Taos Community Auditorium

Posted

The Borromeo String Quartet is a group of very busy musicians. In addition to their many performing and recording commitments, they pay it forward academically as ensemble-in-residence at no fewer than three esteemed schools: the New England Conservatory of Music; the Heifetz International Music Institute; and our own Taos School of Music Summer Program.

The quartet is named for the Borromean Islands in Italy's Lake Maggiore, where the group was founded in 1989. Violinist Nicholas Kitchen and cellist Yeesun Kim, now husband and wife, were founding members. The ensemble is now rounded out by violinist Kristopher Tong and violist Mai Motobuchi.

This week, Taos audiences will have two opportunities to enjoy music from the BSQ - minus Kitchen, who has a prior commitment at the Heifetz. His part will be taken by Taos School of Music guest faculty violinist Ara Gregorian.

Today, (June 27) at 8 p.m., there is a seminar offered free of charge at the Hotel St. Bernard in Taos Ski Valley. At the seminar, the quartet, joined by pianist Robert McDonald, will preview the repertoire for their performance this Sunday (June 30), 7:30 p.m. at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. The program will include works by composers Maurice Ravel, Krzysztof Penderecki and Robert Schumann.

Yeesun Kim has been coming to Taos with BSQ for 15 summers. "I always feel as though my internal clock resets when I arrive here. There really is a sense that one has transported oneself to a very special and specific place. There is such a strong and concrete pull from the land and nature around, and there is always a period of adjustment physically and mentally. Altitude and dryness on stringed instruments are no exception. But I believe each year, even my cello is able to make these necessary adjustments more quickly!" she exclaimed. "TSM is a super tight-knit community, including the audience members. Students are new every year, but there is a solid base at the St. Bernard with familiar staff, and a lot of familiar audience members who make us comfortable and welcomed."

Motobuchi joined Borromeo in 2000. When the quartet began spending summers in Taos in 2005, she recalled, "I was eight-nine months pregnant with my daughter. So, audience members have seen me being very pregnant to seeing my daughters grow each summer as we returned. Taos has definitely become our second home. We look forward to our days here all year long, and every summer we feel like we never left. It's great to get to know friends and we feel like they are a big part of our lives."

Tong has been coming to Taos since joining the quartet in 2006. "It is a very special place, a sort of retreat from the normal urban sprawl which most classical musicians live in," he said. "For the students, coming to Taos gives them the space to simply focus on the music they are studying, without having to worry about juggling so many things which so often distract us from that. We have a really wonderful group of students this year, truly warm, generous, kind and fun-loving. Of course they are very talented and skilled, and this will be immediately apparent at their performances, but it is a particularly nice group as well."

"Since it is such a closely knit and small group of people, it is truly wonderful when there is a healthy chemistry among us," Kim said. "This year in particular feels very supportive, hard-working and overall good vibes between students. People seem to be really enjoying each other's company. There is not a set schedule for daily operation (other than three gourmet meals) but everyone is rehearsing, coaching or practicing pretty much from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and that is a pretty full day of music making."

Gregorian is a new addition to the TSM faculty. "I come from a family of all musicians, have been playing the violin since age four and have been performing and teaching for the past 25 years," he said. "This is my first summer at Taos. I am looking forward to working with the students in this intensive and beautiful setting. I am looking forward to working with Bob McDonald and the members of the Borromeo. Since we will be performing in different combinations, it will be fun to work with each as individuals and to be a part of the Borromeo group dynamic."

Kim spoke about the repertoire for the weekend's events. "The Schumann holds a special place in my heart. The slow movement was performed at the wedding ceremony when Nicholas and I tied the knot, and we ourselves performed it with the assistance of Nicholas' parents on piano and viola. There is a very special sonority at the end of this movement where the cello is to detune the C string down to B-flat to sustain a B-flat octave pedal tone during a brief but heavenly codetta, only to be asked to tune back up to normal pitch C as soon as the next movement starts without any pause for a joyous Fugue. This tuning manipulation (while others are playing) causes great anxiety on cellists, as it needs to be done without drawing any attention to oneself."

She expressed warm gratitude to the Taos community. "Thank you for welcoming us year after year with open arms. It is a privilege to be part of this legacy-building institution that has informed and transformed generations of musicians, certainly including myself."

Visit taosschoolofmusic.com for details and advance ticket purchase.

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