Chamber Music Northwest’s Protégé Project, now in its second year, introduces audiences to a new generation of chamber musicians while also offering young players mentoring and experience in the nitty-gritty of a major music festival.
On Sunday at downtown Portland’s Someday Lounge, that experience included a test of nerve as an audience member in the third row collapsed for unknown reasons: In a slightly surreal scene, the unflappable Amphion String Quartet finished a movement of Béla Bartók’s First Quartet as Fire & Rescue tended to the woman, paused as EMTs wheeled her out, and gamely resumed playing with no loss of focus. (The festival had no word on her condition Monday morning, but she was apparently able to walk by the time the ambulance arrived.)
The fledgling Amphion quartet — which takes its name from the mythical ruler of Thebes, son of Zeus and lyre player — formed two years ago for violinist Katie Hyun’s graduate recital at the Yale School of Music. Two of the other members, violinist (and Tigard native) David Southorn and cellist Mihai Marica, were fellow Yale students, and violist Wei-Yang Andy Lin is a friend from Juilliard. They’ve made a good name for themselves already, picking up top honors at the prestigious Plowman and Hugo Kauder competitions last year.
Introducing Robert Schumann’s Third Quartet, Southorn noted Schumann’s remark that a quartet should adopt a conversational, rather than symphonic, style. He and his colleagues have taken the advice to heart: they’re an exceptionally genial ensemble, thoughtful players who presented the entire program on a human scale. My own colleague Brett Campbell observed afterward how well their approach fit the music: lyrical and buoyant in a Mozart Quartet, sighing and passionate in the Schumann, intellectually and technically incisive in the Bartók.
Part of the Protégé experience, and its charm, is casual remarks from the stage in place of program notes. Introducing the Bartók, Hyun noted that it was the piece that first brought them together: “It’s our song.” Sure sounded like it.
The Amphion make their next appearance in Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet with clarinetist Romie de Guise-Langlois, an audience favorite at last summer’s festival. The noon concert takes place this Thursday, June 30, in the atrium of the Oregon Historical Society, 1200 S.W. Park Ave., and it’s free.
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