Hailed by The New York Times as an “outstanding ensemble,” they are one of the most decorated string quartets of its generation. The Verona Quartet has quickly earned a reputation for their “interpretive strength…robust characterization [and] commanding resonance” (Calgary Herald).
Applauded by the Calgary Herald as “… talented, sensitive…brilliant,” JIJI is an adventurous artist on both acoustic and electric guitar, playing a wide range of music from traditional and contemporary classical to free improvisation. JIJI will join the Verona Quartet in a performance of the Boccherini Quintet in D, Fandango.
This concert is generously sponsored by Margery and Arthur Groten.
Isaac Albeniz (1860–1909): Asturias (Leyenda) for solo guitar
Gulli Bjornsson (b. 1991): Dynjandi for solo guitar (2019)
L. van Beethoven (1770–1827): Quartet No. 1 in F Major, Op. 18 No. 1
— Intermission —
Roland Dyens (1955–2016): Tango en Skaï for guitar and string quartet
Luigi Boccherini (1743–1805): Guitar Quintet in D Major, G. 448 “Fandango”
Niccolo Paganini (1782–1840): Caprice No. 24, arranged for guitar and string quartet
Program is subject to change
Verona Quartet/JIJI Program Notes by Joseph Gusmano
Isaac Albeniz (1860–1909): Asturias
Isaac Albeniz is one of Spain’s most widely recognized post-Romantic pianist-composers. Though he does not play guitar, several of his piano works have become mainstays in classical guitar repertoire. At age seven he passed the entrance exams for piano at the Conservatoire de Paris but was deemed too young to study.
Asturias was originally titled Leyenda by the composer. The current name was invented by the German publisher Hofmeister. The piece does not resemble any folk music from northern Asturias, but instead evokes Andalusian flamenco guitar gestures of southern Spain. The opening theme suggests a strumming technique in which the thumb and finger of the strumming hand alternate between the melody and a repeated pedal note. The dramatic staccato chords capture the sharp movements of a flamenco dancer.
Gulli Bjornsson (b. 1991): Dynjandi
Gulli Bjornsson is a guitarist, composer, and programmer from Iceland. His music tends to blend electronics with live instruments and visuals. Bjornsson also draws inspiration from Icelandic folk music and nature. He teaches Electronic Music Composition at the University of Kansas, and has degrees from the Manhattan School of Music, the Yale School of Music, and Princeton University. His compositions have been performed by the Aizuri Quartet, Contemporaneous, Mirror Strings, and many other ensembles and soloists from around the world.
Dynjandi, or “Thunderous,” is the largest waterfall in the Westfjords region of Iceland, standing 100 meters tall. The piece opens with a gentle melody that slowly builds inertia, swelling into a powerful stream of arpeggios. Bjornsson said of his piece, “The intense beauty of the waterfall stuck with me and became my inspiration as I tried to capture the essence of this waterfall in some way through virtuosic music. Dynjandi cascaded down a mountainside creating a total of 7 waterfalls, the form of the music is in 7 sections.”
Ludwig von Beethoven (1770–1827): String Quartet in F Major, Op. 18, No. 1
Beethoven was commissioned to compose this quartet by Prince Joseph Franz von Lobkowitz. Lobkowitz also commissioned Beethoven’s 5th, 6th, and 7th symphonies. After giving an earlier version of the quartet to Karl Amenda, Beethoven cautioned him, “Be sure not to hand on to anybody your quartet, in which I have made some drastic alterations. For only now have I learnt to write quartets; and this you will notice, I fancy, when you receive them.” This earlier version, known as the Amenda Manuscript, was eventually published by Bärenreiter around 1965.
The theme from the first movement is similar to Mozart’s Violin Sonata No. 32, K. 454. Beethoven borrows the theme for the Finale from one of his earlier string trios, Op. 9, No. 3 in C Minor. This early work is full of classical gestures: simple elegant melodies, distinct harmonic accompaniment, and formal symmetry. The second movement gives us a premonition of the moody, tempestuous nature of Beethoven’s later, more Romantic works.
Roland Dyens (1955–2016): Tango en Skaï
Roland Dyens was a French classical guitarist, composer, and arranger. He was born in Tunisia but spent most of his life in Paris where he studied classical guitar with Alberto Ponce Désiré Dondeyne. Dyens compositional and performance style was highly improvisational. He often began his concerts with an improvised piece of music and in many cases, he would improvise the program itself. A journalist once described Dyens as having the “hands of a classical musician and the mind of a jazz musician.”
Tango en Skaï began as one of those improvised pieces that Dyens would use to begin his concerts. Eventually he was convinced to write it down and the piece was published in 1985 by Henry Lamoine. The title literally translates to Tango in PVC; Skaï is a slang term for fake leather, or polyvinyl chloride. This suggests that the piece is a mimicry or pale imitation of a real tango.
Luigi Boccherini (1743–1805): Quintet in D Minor, Fandango
Luigi Boccherini was an Italian composer and cellist of the Classical era. His father, Leopoldo Boccherini, was an accomplished cello and double bass player and his brother, Giovanni Boccherini, was a poet and a dancer who wrote libretti for Antonio Salieri and Joseph Haydn. Though much of his music is modeled after forms established by Haydn, Boccherini helped promote the use of the cello as a melodic force in the string quartet.
Boccherini’s Quintet in D Minor also has the title “Fandango”, which is a lively folk dance popular in Spain and Portugal. This dance was first introduced in Spain in the 17th century, and Catholic authorities initially banned it, describing it as a “godless dance.” Just as the Consistory was about to vote on whether or not the fandango ought to be outlawed, they allowed two dancers to enter and perform it. The church officials were so moved by the performance that they jumped up and joined the dancers.
Niccolò Paganini (1782–1840): 24 Caprices for Solo Violin, Caprice No. 24
Niccolo Paganini was one of the most virtuosic and prolific violinists of all time. Many of the techniques he developed on his instruments became the foundation for modern violin technique. His influence as a composer can also not be understated. Both Franz Liszt and Robert Schumann have made piano arrangements of Paganini’s works. Liszt published a series of six etudes based on Paganini’s music. The most famous of these etudes, La campanella, borrows a melody from Paganini’s Violin Concerto No. 2 in B Minor, which includes actual handbells during the finale.
The 24 Paganini Caprices are a staple of solo violin repertoire, with Caprice No. 24 being one of the most technically demanding. The piece begins in A Minor, but closes in A Major, and the material is generated by way of theme and variation. The opening theme of the piece serves as a thread that links all of the other variations. Some of these variations are tender and gentle, while others are full of fiery and explosive figurations.
Jonathan Ong, Violin
Dorothy Ro, Violin
Abigail Rojansky, Viola
Jonathan Dormand, Cello
Acclaimed for its “bold interpretive strength, robust characterization and commanding resonance” (Calgary Herald), the Verona Quar–tet has firmly established itself amongst the most distinguished ensembles on the chamber music scene today. The group’s singular sense of purpose most recently earned them Chamber Music America’s coveted 2020 Cleveland Quartet Award, and a reputation as an “outstanding ensemble… cohesive yet full of temperament” (The New York Times). The Quartet serves on the faculty of the Oberlin College and Conservatory as the Quartet-in-Residence, in addition to holding residences at the Lunenburg Academy of Music Performance, Indiana University Summer String Academy and North Carolina’s Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle.
The Verona Quartet has appeared across four continents, enchanting audiences at venues such as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center (New York City), Kennedy Center, Library of Congress (Washington, D.C.), Jordan Hall (Boston), Wigmore Hall (U.K.) and Melbourne Recital Hall (Australia), and has performed at festivals including La Jolla Summerfest, Chamber Music Northwest, Caramoor, Alpenglow, and Bravo! Vail, and with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. The quartet curates the UpClose Chamber Music Series under the auspices of the Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle, bringing the visceral energy of classical music to diverse audiences in venues ranging from concert halls to craft breweries, and unlocking the secrets of the music through the “intimate way they communicate with each other and the audience” (The Arts Fuse, Boston).
A string quartet for the 21st century, the Verona Quartet champions the rich breadth of the string quartet repertoire from the time-honored canon through contemporary classics. Notable commissions and premieres include works by composers Julia Adolphe, Sebastian Currier, Corey Dundee, Texu Kim, as well as Michael Gilbertson’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated Quartet.
In addition to advocating contemporary music, the quartet strives for a dynamic, imaginative approach to collaboration and programming that champions cross-cultural and interdisciplinary enterprises. Such recent projects include a live-performance art installation with artist Ana Prvački, performances with dancers from Brooklyn’s Dance Heginbotham, artistic exchanges with traditional Emirati poets in the UAE, and a collaboration with GRAMMY-winning folk trio I’m With Her.
Drawing from the mentorship of the esteemed Cleveland, Juilliard and Pacifica Quartets, the Verona Quartet’s rapid rise to international prominence was fueled by top prize wins at the Wigmore Hall, Melbourne, M-Prize and Osaka International Chamber Music Competitions, as well as the 2015 Concert Artists Guild Competition. Their debut album, Diffusion—featuring the quartets of Janacek, Ravel and Szymanowski—will be released on Azica Records in the summer of 2021. Their second album, SHATTER, will showcase the works of American composers Julia Adolphe, Michael Gilbertson and Reena Esmail, in collaboration with Hindustani vocalist Saili Oak.
The ensemble’s “thoughtful, impressive” (Cleveland Classical) performances emanate from the spirit of storytelling; the Quartet believes that this transcends genre and therefore the name “Verona” pays tribute to William Shakespeare, one of the greatest storytellers of all time.
Applauded by the Calgary Herald as “…talented, sensitive…brilliant,” JIJI is an adventurous artist on both acoustic and electric guitar, playing an extensive range of music from traditional and contemporary classical music to free improvisation. Her impeccable musicianship combined with compelling stage presence and fascinating repertoire earned the Korean guitarist First Prize at the 2016 Concert Artists Guild International Competition.
A passionate advocate of new music, JIJI has premiered a duo piece Talking Guitars by renowned composer, Paul Lansky, released on Bridge Records. She has premiered works by numerous emerging composers, including Nina C. Young, Gabriella Smith, Riho Maimets, Krists Auznieks, Gulli Björnsson, Andrew McIntosh, and Farnood HaghaniPour. She also performs her own compositions, incorporating electronic media and acoustic music. Her music is influenced by her regular activities as a DJ, where she highlights the electronic dance styles of happy hardcore and Berlin experimental electronica. As a chamber musician, she performed with members of Eighth Blackbird, Bang on a Can All-Stars, wild Up, and the Aizuri Quartet. Her performances have been featured on PBS, NPR’s From the Top, WHYY-TV, FOX 4-TV, Munchies, The Not So Late Show, and Hong Kong broadcast station RTHK’s The Works.
The Kansas City Star described JIJI as “A graceful and nuanced player,” adding that “…she presented an intimate, captivating performance.” Career highlights include a wide array of venues, including Carnegie Hall, 92ndStreet Y, Festival Napa Valley, Krannert Center, Purdue Convocations, Virginia Arts Festival, National Sawdust, Miller theater, Mass MOCA, Subculture NYC, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Princeton Sound Kitchen, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her upcoming 20-21 season highlights include performances at the Green Music Center, Market Square Concerts, University of Delaware and concerto performances with the Richmond Symphony and Sinfonietta Riga in Latvia.
JIJI is currently based in Tempe, Arizona where she holds the post of Assistant Professor of Guitar at Arizona State University. She is sponsored by D’Addario Strings.