Meet the Callisto Quartet!

2020–2021 Ernst Stiefel String Quartet-in-Residence

Paul Aguilar, violin

Rachel Stenzel, violin

Eva Kennedy, viola

Hannah Moses, cello

Each year, Caramoor selects a promising young string quartet for a year-long residency. The Ernst Stiefel String Quartet-in-Residence lends their time and talents to Caramoor’s Student Strings program in secondary schools with a classroom-based program of concerts, conversations, and performance clinics. The Quartet also performs at Caramoor throughout their residency, enabling the public to experience these exciting, young players in an intimate setting. The Callisto Quartet is the 21st quartet in this residency program. Since its formation in 2016 at the Cleveland Institute of Music, the Callisto Quartet has quickly garnered top prizes in nearly every major international chamber music competition and has been hailed by audiences across North America and Europe. Grand prize winners of the 2018 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition and Second Prize Winners of the 2019 Banff International String Quartet Competition, they have also taken home prizes from the Bordeaux (2019), Melbourne (2018), and Wigmore Hall (2018) competitions. Currently serving as the Graduate String Quartet in Residence at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University in Houston, TX, they also study with Günter Pichler of the Alban Berg Quartet at the prestigious Escuela Superior de Música Reina Sofía in Madrid, Spain.

Kathy Schuman, Caramoor’s Artistic Director, recently spoke to them about their upcoming residency.

How do you feel about your upcoming residency at Caramoor?

We are so thrilled and honored to be the Ernst Steifel String Quartet-in- Residence this season! Of course so many wonderful quartets have done this residency in the past and we could not be more excited to be joining the ranks.

What kind of education and community engagement work has the Callisto done in the past?

Community engagement, and education in particular, is definitely a huge part of our mission. We are very passionate about our teaching and love having the opportunity to share this great music with the younger generation. We try to get involved in local schools of all levels wherever we happen to be performing, and we have been on faculty at several summer music programs, including the Credo Music Festival, the Bravo International Music Program, and the Western Reserve Chamber Festival. Having access to top-tier music education was critical in shaping us and our love of chamber music when we were young, so we very much believe in the importance of bringing that to students.

Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, you can’t come to Caramoor to be on site for the Fall residency period, but we’re looking forward to your school “visits” nonetheless! Will this be the first time you are doing virtual education work?

We have certainly had to adapt to a new way of performing and teaching, which has included virtual teaching at various times over the summer, and even currently at local schools here in Houston. In navigating the world of virtual teaching we have found we have had to modify the actual content of our teaching — so many students who would normally be in chamber groups working together on a piece are unable to, and so a lot of our virtual teaching experience has been modified to more specific issues. For example, discussing topics such as how to choose fingerings and bowings, or talking about a specific piece or composer, or how to listen critically to recordings (since, of course, there are no live concerts currently). We still want to be able to find the best ways to connect with and guide students even if we can’t be there in person.

Amazingly, Caramoor has never presented a full cycle of Bartok string quartets. Yours will be the first for us, and for you too! Why have you chosen to perform all six in your Fall and Spring concerts? What makes these quartets special, and what will we (and you) gain by hearing (and playing) the entire cycle?

Bartok has been a very special composer to us since our inception as a quartet. Bartok’s 6th String Quartet was the very first piece the four of us played together, and in fact it is such an incredible piece of music that we rarely put it away for longer than a few months. At this point it feels like it is embedded in our DNA as a quartet! Ever since learning the 6th quartet we have dreamed of doing a Bartok cycle, so it is literally a dream come true to be able to do so now. The cycle spans Bartok’s adult life from the first quartet, written when he was 27, to the sixth, written just a few years before his death. Bartok’s music is often misrepresented as noisy or difficult to comprehend, but there is a huge range of beauty, emotion, and color in these quartets that we are excited to share with people.

The Callisto Quartet will continue the discussion on the impact of Bartok’s six quartets on Friday, October 30 at 7:00 pm, alongside Ara Guzelimian (Artistic Director of Ojai Music Festival and former Dean and Provost of The Juilliard School). This Livestream will be free to access, and will help you prepare for the Callisto Quartet’s performance on Sunday.

Caramoor will present three Callisto Quartet concerts in 2020–2021: The first is Sunday, November 1 at 3:00pm (broadcast remotely from Houston), with further concerts in May and July to be announced.

The Ernst Stiefel String Quartet-in-Residence mentoring program is supported, in part, by major endowment gifts from the Ernst C. Stiefel Foundation. The success of this mentoring program relies on the generosity of donors interested in furthering the careers of promising string quartets. View the full list of alumni quartets. Donate now to help fund our mentoring programs!


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