Last night, an ensemble of Curtis Institute students, performing under the name "Old City String Quartet," stole the hearts of an enthusiastic audience at Washington Irving High School in a fantastic concert presented by Peoples' Symphony Concerts. These young students — violinists Bryan Lee and Joel Link, violist Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt, and cellist Camden Shaw — have been playing together as an ensemble since 2008 and have already achieved significant recognition, having recently won a gold medal and grand prize at the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition and second prize at the 2009 Young Concert Artists International Auditions. According to their website, two of their members have their senior recitals at Curtis scheduled for this spring.
They were performing as substitutes for the Juilliard String Quartet, which had to cancel many of its March engagements because its new first violinist still had engagements to fulfill from prior to joining that quartet recently. From the opening bars of Mozart's Quartet in Bb, K. 589, it was clear that the Juilliard would not be missed on this occasion, because this group of talented youngsters played like veterans of the concert stage. The Mozart's classic lines, the Mendelssohn's (Quartet in Eb, Op. 12) romantic warmth and rhythmic vigor, and the Ravel's many colorful moods and special effects were all achieved in performances of depth, subtlety, virtuosity, vigor…. one runs out of adjectives to describe the inspired playing of this group. These young musicians play with the maturity of a group having much more experience. They've achieved that synthesis of style that results in a mature quartet playing as one instrument with four voices, and they truly animate the music that they play.
With musicians such as these coming up from the conservatories, one need have no fear for the future of classical performance. I eagerly anticipate hearing them again. The promotional text on the program sheet mentioned that they have already made a recording, but none was on offer during intermission, so some on-line exploration is in order. I checked out their website, www.theoldcitystringquartet.com, but it is rather threadbare – no biographical information about the members of the quartet, much less any information about their recording and how to get it. I just googled Unipheye Music