Sunday, October 27, 2024 | 5:30 pm

Escher Quartet
Jordan Bak, viola

The Howard Family Concert | The Reiko T. and Yuan C. Lee Fund for Outstanding String Performers

Location: Shriver Hall

The Howard Family Concert | The Reiko T. and Yuan C. Lee Fund for Outstanding String Performers

Haydn himself praised Mozart’s bright “Prussian” Quartet, which opens this performance by the Escher String Quartet –an Avery Fisher Career Grant winner known for its “eloquent, full-blooded playing…a beautiful blend of individuality and accord” (BBC Music Magazine). The prodigious violist Jordan Bak, a “powerhouse musician” (The Whole Note) noted for his “lyrical grace” (Gramophone) joins the group to explore the warmth and expressivity of cherished quintets by Dvořák and Brahms.

"Clearly one of the finest quartets of their generation." —The Guardian

Bak is "an exciting new voice in Classical performance." —I Care If You Listen

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Escher Quartet

Adam Barnett-Hart, violin
Brendan Speltz, violin
Pierre LaPointe, viola
Brook Speltz, cello

Escher String Quartet has received acclaim for its profound musical insight and rare tonal beauty. A former BBC New Generation Artist and recipient of the Avery Fisher Career Grant, the quartet has performed at the BBC Proms at Cadogan Hall and is a regular guest at Wigmore Hall. In its home town of New York, the ensemble serves as season artists of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.

The 2023-2024 season finds Escher Quartet embarking upon a major project - performances of the complete cycle of quartets by Bela Bartok, culminating in a single concert performance of all six at Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Beyond Bartok, the Eschers will return to many of the illustrious music centers and organizations in America, such as The Kennedy Center, Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, Phoenix Chamber Music Society, Duke University, Coleman Chamber Music Association, and Savannah Music Festival, among others.

Escher String Quartet has made a distinctive impression throughout Europe, with recent debuts including the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Berlin Konzerthaus, London’s Kings Place, Slovenian Philharmonic Hall, Les Grands Interprètes Geneva, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, and Auditorium du Louvre. The ensemble has appeared at festivals such as the Heidelberg Spring Festival, Budapest’s Franz Liszt Academy, Dublin’s Great Music in Irish Houses, the Risør Chamber Music Festival in Norway, the Hong Kong International Chamber Music Festival, and the Perth International Arts Festival in Australia. Alongside its growing European profile, Escher Quartet continues to flourish in its home country, performing at the Aspen Music Festival, Bravo! Vail, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Bowdoin Music Festival, Toronto Summer Music, Chamber Music San Francisco, Music@Menlo, and the Ravinia and Caramoor festivals.

The 2022-2023 season saw the release of two albums - string quartets by Pierre Jalbert and Escher’s studio recording of the complete Janacek quartets and Pavel Haas quartet no. 2 with multi award winning percussionist Colin Currie (BIS Label). Recordings of the complete Mendelssohn quartets and beloved romantic quartets of Dvorak, Borodin and Tchaikovsky were released on the BIS label in 2015-18 and received with the highest critical acclaim, with comments such as “…eloquent, full-blooded playing…the four players offer a beautiful blend of individuality and accord” (BBC Music Magazine). In 2019, DANCE, an album of quintets with Grammy award winning guitarist Jason Vieaux, was enthusiastically received. In 2021, Escher’s recording of the complete quartets of Charles Ives and Samuel Barber was met with equal excitement, including “A fascinating snapshot of American quartets, with a recording that is brilliantly detailed, this is a first-rate release all around” (Strad Magazine). The quartet has also recorded the complete Zemlinsky String Quartets in two volumes, released on the Naxos label in 2013 and 2014.

Beyond the concert hall, Escher String Quartet is proud to announce the creation of a new non-profit, ESQYRE (Escher String Quartet Youth Residency Education). ESQYRE’s mission as a non-profit classical music organization is to provide a comprehensive educational program through music performance and instruction for people of all ages. In addition to their non-profit work, the quartet has also held faculty positions at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX and Univerity of Akron, OH. Within months of its inception in 2005, the ensemble came to the attention of key musical figures worldwide. Championed by The Emerson Quartet, Escher Quartet was invited by both Pinchas Zukerman and Itzhak Perlman to be Quartet-in-Residence at each artist's summer festival: the Young Artists Program at Canada’s National Arts Centre; and the Perlman Chamber Music Program on Shelter Island, NY. Escher Quartet takes its name from the Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher, inspired by Escher’s method of interplay between individual components working together to form a whole.

"Gutsy, with plenty of edge and a brilliant precision of attack." —The Guardian

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Jordan Bak

Award-winning Jamaican-American violist Jordan Bak has achieved international acclaim as a trailblazing artist, praised for his radiant stage presence, dynamic interpretations, and fearless power. Critics have described him as “an exciting new voice in Classical performance” (I Care If You Listen), “a powerhouse musician, with a strong voice and compelling sound” (The Whole Note) and lauded his “haunting lyrical grace” (Gramophone). The 2021 YCAT Robey Artist and a top laureate of the 2020 Sphinx Competition, Bak is also a Grand Prize winner and Audience Prize recipient of the 2019 Concert Artists Guild Victor Elmaleh Competition, the recipient of the 2019 Samuel Sanders Tel Aviv Museum Prize and the 2019 John White Special Prize from the Tertis International Viola Competition. Other recent accolades include being named one of ClassicFM's "30 Under 30" Rising Stars, Musical America’s New Artist of the Month and being a featured artist for WQXR’s inaugural Artist Propulsion Lab.

Bak’s enthusiastically-received debut album IMPULSE (Bright Shiny Things) was released in May 2022, garnering over one million streams on major digital media platforms and featuring new compositions by Tyson Gholston Davis, Toshio Hosokawa, Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti, Quinn Mason, Jeffrey Mumford, and Joan Tower. A proud new music advocate, Bak gave the world premieres of Kaija Saariaho’s Du gick, flög for viola and mezzo-soprano, Jessica Meyer’s Excessive Use of Force for solo viola and On fire…no, after you for viola, mezzo-soprano and piano, and Augusta Read Thomas’ Upon Wings of Words for string quartet and soprano. He has additionally championed works by H. Leslie Adams, Esteban Zapata Blanco, Carlos Carillo, Caroline Shaw, and Alvin Singleton.

Bak has appeared as soloist with such orchestras as Sarasota Orchestra, London Mozart Players, New York Classical Players, Juilliard Orchestra and Brandon Hill Chamber Orchestra among others, and has performed under such esteemed conductors as Howard Griffiths, Stephen Mulligan, Keith Lockhart, Gerard Schwarz, and Ewa Strusińska. As a recitalist and chamber musician, he has been heard at some of the world’s greatest performance venues including Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, the Concertgebouw, Wigmore Hall, Jordan Hall, Merkin Concert Hall, Princeton University Concerts, Perelman Theater at The Kimmel Center, Elgar Concert Hall, and Helsinki Musiikkitalo. Bak’s recent performances include recitals at Kravis Center, Wiltshire Music Centre, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Harriman-Jewell Series, Lichfield Festival, and Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival.

Bak has been a presence at numerous chamber music festivals such as Marlboro Music Festival, Tippet Rise, Chamber Music Northwest, Roman River Festival, and Newport Classical, and has appeared during the year at Chamber Music Detroit, Chamber Music Society of Central Virginia, and Chamber Music Society of Little Rock. Recent and upcoming highlights include NEXUS Chamber Music, Brooklyn Chamber Music Society, and Emory University, as well as an upcoming tour with Musicians from Marlboro. Bak has performed as a guest with the Verona Quartet and Merz Trio and has collaborated with such artists as Jonathan Biss, Lara Downes, Jennifer Frautschi, Ani Kavafian, Soovin Kim, Charles Neidich, Marina Piccinini, and Gilles Vonsattel.

Passionate about education, Bak currently serves as Assistant Professor of Viola at University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA). He is a former faculty member of Bowling Green State University in Ohio and served as a visiting artist and ambassador for Music Masters in London. Additionally, he has given masterclasses at Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, Oberlin Conservatory, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (UK), Conservatorio del Tolima (Colombia), and Brevard Music Center.

Only the third violist to earn the Artist Diploma from The Juilliard School, Jordan Bak holds a Bachelor of Music degree from New England Conservatory and a Master of Music degree from The Juilliard School where he was awarded the prestigious Kovner Fellowship. His principal teachers were Dimitri Murrath, Hsin-Yun Huang, and Samuel Rhodes.

Jordan Bak plays a 2016 viola made by Jon van Kouwenhoven. He is married to violist Rubina Bak and shares two cats, Bartok and Walton. An avid car buff, he drives a very loud Dodge Dakota 5.9 R/T.

“Bak was dazzling…he played with a full-bodied sound and exacting intonation and articulation. His playing was so constantly involving and impressive that one was drawn to each note and phrase.” —New York Classical Review

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

String Quartet in D major, K. 575

View Notes

Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904)

String Quintet in E-flat major, Op. 97, "American"

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

String Quintet in G major, Op. 111

Program Subject to Change Without Notice