The Formosa Quartet brings us a lyrical program of W.A. Mozart’s String Quartet in G major, K. 387 and Antonin Dvorak’s beloved “American.”
The Formosa Quartet
“A marvelously elegant performance full of youthful freshness and exuberance… spellbinding virtuosity.” (BBC Music Magazine)
Winners of both the First Prize and Amadeus Prize at the Wigmore Hall International String Quartet Competition, the Formosa Quartet brings us a lyrical program of W.A. Mozart’s String Quartet in G major, K. 387 and Antonin Dvorak’s beloved “American.” Included on the program is also one of their lively and popular Formosa Sets—collections which include pop, folk, poetry, and jazz arrangements, and, in this concert, featuring Wei-Chieh Lin’s “Rain Night Flower” from Five Taiwanese Folk Songs.
Presented by the Seton Hall University Arts Council & the College of Communication and the Arts as part of their Classical Concert Series.
The Seton Hall University Arts Council supports the integral role of the arts in higher education and their universally recognized status as a hallmark of an educated and humane culture. The Council contributes to the cultural vitality of the campus and to the University’s role in the greater community by fostering and promoting the visual, literary and performing arts, enhancing communication and collaboration among its members.
Voices & Visibility
Selection of this year’s programming was done in accordance with the Seton Hall University Arts Council’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion cultural programming theme of ‘Voices & Visibility’ and features work from and about groups that have been otherwise historically underrepresented.
Click here for a preview of the Formosa Set, a feature of this upcoming program.
In place of standard program annotation on the Formosa Set, and as part of the Arts Council’s Voices and Visibility theme this year, Dena Levine, Director of Classical Concert Series at Seton Hall Unviersity, asked the artists a few questions about the richness and diversity of their programming.
DL: In our music classes we spend some time teasing out the difference between cultivated and vernacular music, and a little bit of time exploring the richness of music traditions which are not part of music school learning but indigenous to our human cultures. What do you feel audiences and students of music have to gain by an understanding of the differences between these two trajectories?
JASMINE: Differences between cultivated music and vernacular music are best understood through a deeper understanding of each, and I think this latter understanding is the greatest gain. People have an innate ability to observe common characteristics between things, and to then group these commonalities. While categorization is often useful, categories can become fixed boxes in our minds, fostering stereotyping and assumption. “Unboxing” vernacular music might mean discovering its sophistication, sublimity, and nuance. “Unboxing” cultivated music might mean discovering its humanity, groove, and directness of expression. At the same time, a rounded view serves to illuminate clear distinctions between, and heighten contrastive enjoyment of, the two.
DL: Your group biography talks about “The founding ensemble’s deep commitment to championing Taiwanese music and promoting the arts in Taiwan” and says that this has expanded “to include the exploration of the rich folk traditions and heritages found in America today.” What is that exploration like for you as artists, and how do you feel that performing this music adds to the audience’s understanding of diversity in our culture.
WAYNE: Our projects for next season include a program offering called American Mirror, inspired by composer Derrick Skye’s piece by the same name. Derrick’s piece represents the ongoing amalgamation of cultures in American society and draws from a dizzying array of musical sources, including Appalachian folk music, Hindustani and Carnatic classical music, and music from West and North Africa. Another project of ours called The Formosa Quartet Set uses a jazz programming structure against a classical music backdrop and explores our collection of folk, pop, jazz, and poetry arrangements.
There are a lot of other interesting projects that I don’t have room to list here, but that in itself is sort of the point: by widening the scope of what we do beyond the Western musical canon and beyond our roots as a Taiwanese-American ensemble, we open up a gigantic bounty of musical riches for us to dive into. And there is so much that hasn’t even appeared on our radar yet; the more you know, the more you know you don’t know. Maybe by sharing a sliver of these musical riches at our concerts, our audiences will also begin to appreciate how much the less familiar parts of our diverse American musical-cultural landscape have to offer.
DL: Your program for this concert features a range of music in this regard. You have programmed Mozart, whom audiences experience as the epitome of the Classical style, and Dvorak, who himself was Czech but wrote music which he felt represented America. In addition, there are the works in your Formosa Set which are selected from composers outside of the European mainstream often with the inclusion of indigenous and folk works—and in this concert which feature Taiwanese music, one of the deep commitments of your founding configuration and akin to the background of some of you in the group now. Obviously, these works all have their own technical and musical demands, but do you also experience them differently based upon where they come from?
DEBORAH: Absolutely. Each piece is a portal into a different time, culture, place, and sometimes, even a feeling or sentiment. I definitely think our musical approach is informed by where each piece comes from, who wrote them, where those composers were in that particular moment in their lives, and what story or message is behind the music. As those elements pass through us, our experience is affected and our hope is that we capture and transmit the essence of each piece to our listeners as well.
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