When violinist Amy Schroeder and cellist Andrew Yee began thinking about a name for the quartet they founded at the Juilliard School of Music, they started with "a" in the musical dictionary. They did not search far before deciding on Attacca, which refers to the direction at the end of a movement to show that the next is to follow immediately without any pause. Moving forward rapidly is exactly what the ensemble has been doing since 2003, serving as the Juilliard Graduate Resident String Quartet and winning one award after another in rapid succession.
The ensemble, composed of Schroeder, Yee, violinist Keiko Tokunaga and violist Luke Fleming, was the first prize winner of the Seventh Osaka International Chamber Music Competition in 2011 was the recipient of the Listeners' Choice Award the same year in the Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition. This week, they make their Library of Congress debut during the John Adams Residency performing the composer's string quartet, "Fellow Traveler," and selections from "John's Book of Alleged Dances." In addition, they will display their diversity playing Janacek's String Quartet No. 2 and Beethoven's String Quartet in F major.
"Our recording of Adams' complete repertoire for string quartet came out six weeks ago," said Schroeder. "It's our first commercial CD. Adams wrote his string quartet for the St. Lawrence Quartet a long time ago and gave them exclusive rights to the piece. We fell in love with it when Juilliard asked us to learn it for an event to be attended by Adams, the president of Juilliard, and other high profile people.
"We were a bit scared because we had seen St. Lawrence perform it, but Adams liked our performance and arranged for us to also have rights to it. ... He gave us feedback quickly and told interesting and humorous stories about his compositions, especially the dances."
|The Attacca Quartet|
|» Where: Library of Congress Coolidge Auditorium, 1st Street SE, between Independence Avenue and East Capitol Street|
|» When: 8 p.m. Wednesday|
|» Info: Free, but tickets required; 202-707-5502; loc.gov|
The Adams works are the latest additions to the quartet's repertoire which encompasses major classical string quartets, chamber ensembles and concertos performed with orchestras. They stand apart for their specialty of performing all 68 of Haydn's string quartets, only 20 of which are performed on a regular basis. To reintroduce Haydn and his unknown string quartets to audiences, they launched a New York City series in 2010 that they called "The 68."
"Andrew came up with the idea while walking his dog," said Schroeder. "He was listening to what was then an unknown piece to him and he was so affected that he burst into tears. He called us and said he had discovered music by a genius that the world never gets to hear. We were excited, too, and began learning and performing all 68 quartets. We'll start the series again next year in Canada."
The Attacca Quartet performs frequently at such festivals as the Northern Lights Music Festival in Canada, the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival in Michigan, the Sitka Summer Music Festival in Alaska, and the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy, where they were the resident quartet in 2005. Since making their Carnegie Hall debut in 2007, they have often collaborated with such musicians as pianists Claude Frank and Jean-Yves Thibaudet, cellist Andres Diaz, clarinetist David Shifrin and the Tokyo String Quartet.
The quartet's commitment to educational and community outreach projects often finds them serving in seminars and master classes, teaching at music camps, and performing at benefit concerts supporting Michael J. Fox Foundation's fight against Parkinson's disease.
"We look forward to learning John Adams' next string quartet to be performed with an orchestra," said Schroeder. "In the meantime, we especially hope the Library of Congress audience is excited about his music that we'll play for them."