The string quartet is arguably one the most established chamber ensembles of classical music across different artistic eras. Though its origins are traced back to the baroque trio sonata configuration, the typical two violin, viola and cello arrangement became a prominent corps in 18th, 19th and 20th century art music.
So why are we not tired of it?
Groups like the Emerson, Takács, Juilliard and Cleveland quartets (and the list goes on and on) have syndicated the art form, primarily through their respective recognizable unique sound and interpretation. Some market themselves as experts on a specific genre or period while others, like Kronos, are using the forum to expand the boundaries of music, even inciting social action.
Houston has its own breed of string quartet: Four cool dudes known as the Apollo Chamber Players.
Co-founders and violinists Matt Detrick and Timothy Peters found a winning strategy through a process of trial and error, focusing on the intersection of classical music seria and folk music. Often challenging what belongs on a classical music stage, this vigorous exploration is helping the group gain a loyal following.
While some groups use this as a gimmick, often to hide personal performance inadequacies — listeners have a tendency to ignore and forgive poor execution when the music they are listening to is likable — Apollo's approach is virtuosic, genuine and passionate owning the arrangements and their execution. In plain terms, they kick ass.
Apollo has that je ne sais quoi, that intangible that makes music worth more than a thousand words, with non-verbal chemistry that comes out of years of knowing each other personally and musically. Three of the members of the group, Detrick, Peters and cellist Matthew Dudzik, worked on degrees at Rice University's Shepherd School of Music in the early 2000s, and I had the opportunity to know them back then as well.
They are a little nutty. Peters once explained the concept of themes and variations to children using chicken. Detrick was always hanging around the flute section. Dudzik would show off his language skills (he speaks Japanese fluently). Violist Matthew Carrington joined later, but had played with the rest in summer festivals and random gigs.
Part of Apollo's strategy includes coming up with its own arrangements. Detrick leads the effort, re-orchestrating tunes for the quartet, morphing unassuming folk melodies into tour de force compositions that feature the group's strengths.
At 8 p.m. Saturday at Shepherd's Duncan Hall, Apollo will present a concert infused with fiery Spanish culture. Titled "Gypsies and Toreadors: Folk Dances from Spain," The soiree debuts a brand new "Malagueña."
CultureMap goes art and about and gets the scoop on the concert and group:
Then, CultureMap captures "Malagueña" in its entirety: