Chesapeake Music has announced the winners of the 10th Biennial Chesapeake International Chamber Music Competition for Young Professionals held on April 2 at the Ebenezer Theater in Easton, Maryland. The five finalists competing in the Competition were the Abeo Quartet from the University of Delaware, the Aero Quartet from Ann Arbor, Michigan, the Elless Quartet from the Cleveland Institute of Music, the Terra String Quartet from New York City, and Trio Colores from Zurich, Switzerland. Trio Colores was awarded the Lerman Gold ($10,000) Prize and the Audience Choice Award. Abeo Quartet won the Silver ($5,000) Prize.
This year’s finalists came not only from the U.S. but also from Austria and Switzerland and have studied and prepared at distinguished schools and conservatories. The average age of an ensemble must be under 31, and some include members as young as 21. The applicants represented a wide range of instrumental combinations: winds, strings, brass, and mixed instruments, including percussion.
Speaking to the five finalists, Marcy Rosen, one of Chesapeake Music’s artistic directors who was also a preliminary judge, said, “The level of playing we heard today was really unbelievable. The sensitivity and artistry you all showed were magnificent.”
Trio Colores, which hails from both Austria and Switzerland, connects a longstanding passion for percussion with a visible joy in performing music while sharing the versatility of percussion instruments. The musicians’ knowledge of classical and contemporary music, combined with their interest in challenging the traditional boundaries of modern music, results in creative, ambitious, and uniquely arranged concert programs.
The trio mesmerized the audience with a range of percussive instruments, including playing “Music de Table,” using hand percussion on wooden tablets, as well complex arrangements for the marimbas – what the group called “big xylophones.” Its member Fabian Ziegler commented, “We want to change this mindset from the people that percussion is just a show instrument. We want to show that we can play a recital, like a piano recital.”
Trio member Luca Stafffelbach, who arranges many of the trio’s compositions, added, “As percussionists, we don’t have the repertoire from all the great composers centuries ago like pianists or violinists have. So, we try to create our repertoire with arrangements of music that we like, which is actually not composed for our instruments, but we try to find a way that this music works.”
The Abeo Quartet is currently the inaugural Graduate String Quartet in Residence at the University of Delaware under the tutelage of the Calidore String Quartet. Formed at The Juilliard School in 2018, the quartet was selected as a finalist in the 2021 Young Concert Artists International Competition, and previous accolades include the silver medal winner of the 2019 Fischoff International Chamber Music Competition, among others. The ensemble is compelled to integrate their music with the societal issues that grip humanity today while transmitting their love for chamber music to a wide variety of audiences both inside and outside of the concert hall.
Abeo Quartet member Brian Gadlow, a cellist, stated, “The competition pulled out all the stops to just make sure we were feeling good throughout our time here. We were able to spend time getting acquainted with like the community and felt so welcomed by our host family – it’s been awesome.”
“The conversations that we have had with other musicians are also really important to us and our development. It influences our choices going forward and how we view music. It’s been a really wonderful experience.”
Rebecca Benjamin, a quartet member and violinist, added, “The energy of the audience was really special too. You don’t find that everywhere.”
James Kang, a violist, commented, “We get to play music of people that are living and writing today and that’s really special to us. At the end of the day, it’s important to connect with people and connect with the world and to spread the message of love and joy as our name Abeo suggests.”
The other finalists, the Aero Quartet, the Elless Quartet, and the Terra String Quartet commented that in addition to the hospitality of their Eastern Shore hosts, the in-depth feedback from the judges and the opportunity to interact with their colleagues from around the world were extremely valuable and some of the strengths of the competition overall.
Geirthruder Gudmundsdottir, a cellist with Terra String Quartet, concluded, “As young people, especially young people coming out of the pandemic, we’ve been craving social time, playing music with our friends and getting to know people. Spending time with people and getting to know music through other people – that’s neat.”
The two judging panels for the preliminary and final competitions were chaired by Chesapeake Music’s artistic directors, Marcy Rosen and Catherine Cho. Preliminary judges include Marcy Rosen (head), Tara Helen O’Connor, Daniel Phillips, and Ieva Jokubaviciute. Finalist judges include Catherine Cho (head), Diane Walsh, and Peggy Pearson.
The ensembles performed concerts the following day on April 3 at Christ Church in Cambridge, St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Easton, Temple B’nai Israel in Easton, Holy Trinity Church in Oxford, and at a private concert given by a competition benefactor.
The Trio Colores will perform again at the 2022 Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival on June 17 at 7:30 p.m. at the Ebenezer Theater in Easton. Visit the website www.chesapeakemusic.org for further information.
The Chesapeake Chamber Music Competition is underwritten by Talbot Arts, the Maryland State Arts Council, and private benefactors.