Glancing at a photo of Estelle Choi, Jeffrey Myers, Ryan Meehan and Jeremy Berry clothed in causal dress, you’d be hard pressed to see the foursome as one of the most triumphant and dynamic under-30 string quartets in the world.
They look so wholesome, much like your next-door neighbour. Yet Calidore String Quartet has enjoyed a rapid trajectory into a rarified stratosphere that embraces only the most highly qualified.
In 2016 the quartet won the inaugural M-Prize International Chamber Music Competition. The significant $100,000 grand prize is the largest chamber music prize in the world.
“It’s funny. Before the M-Prize we had decided to stop doing competitions. We had reached a point in our career where we wanted to focus on our voice, and competitions can become an obsessions depending on who you play for,” said Choi.
The Calgary-raised cellist is the only Canadian in the New York based quartet.
Early in its career, Calidore had pursued every major competition in North America.
“But the M-Prize was the largest cash prize in the world and it was certainly an important draw. It intrigued us and pushed us to hone in on pieces we were working on. It gave us a goal to work towards.”
Their success has made them a dominant presence on the international chamber music circuit. As they prepare to start their Alberta debut tour, Choi is delighted to return to her stomping grounds as part of the St. Albert Chamber Music Recital Series on Saturday, March 11 at Red Willow Place.
Established in 2010, the Calidore String Quartet derives its name in part from the state of California, where the musicians met while studying at Colburn School Conservatory in downtown Los Angeles.
Both Choi and Myers (violin) played with a loosely based quartet. But once school was completed, members went their separate ways.
Choi and Myers however opted to continue playing as an ensemble inviting Berry (viola) to join and a year later Meehan (violin) added his talents.
Their success is in part due to the work ethic drilled into students at the institute.
“We have very high standards and we refuse to compromise. Here you have four people who work towards a high level. We aim high and never settle for less. We also found the right chemistry in getting along and being honest. It’s a balancing act between being straightforward and truthful with one another and being able to compromise.”
In 2014, the ensemble accepted a two-year residency at Stony Brook University and moved to New York. Just last year, the Lincoln Centre held auditions and the ensemble was once more accepted for a three-year residency.
“We felt very fortunate. It really opened a lot of doors and cemented our presence in New York. It is great to be in such a respected hub.”
There is little doubt about their extraordinary interpretations of the classical repertoire. They have won many American chamber music competitions. They were also the first North Americans to win the prestigious Borletti-Buttoni Trust, an award that provides artists with tailor-made projects.
In the case of Calidore, the trust provided new publicity photos, a recording and publicity support so the ensemble could concentrate on their art.
“It’s an incredible organization. Their knowledge is so vast. One of the things is you build an incredible network of people able to support you. The number of people so generous in supporting us reach our goals is inspiring.”
It is obvious from their many accolades that Calidore successfully conveys the composers’ intentions with more than mere technical mastery. They also understand the emotional meaning behind each note.
At the St. Albert recital, the quartet will perform three great works: Beethoven’s Opus 135, the composer’s last complete work; GyĂ¶rgy Ligeti’s First String Quartet subtitled Metamorphoses Nocturnes, and Antonin DvorĂˇk’s American Quartet, a joyful work inspired by nature.
Calidore String Quartet
St. Albert Chamber Music Recital
Saturday, March 11 at 7:30 p.m.
Red Willow Place
7 Tache St.
Tickets: $30 to $35. Call 780-459-5525.