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The Scarlet & Black

Pacifica Quartet performs string music

The Pacifica Quartet worked with students during their time on campus. Photo by Mary Zheng
The Pacifica Quartet worked with students during their time on campus. Photo by Mary Zheng
The Pacifica Quartet worked with students during their time on campus. Photo by Mary Zheng

Last Thursday, March 5, Grinnell College welcomed the highly acclaimed Pacifica Quartet to play in Sebring-Lewis Concert Hall. The string quartet is made up of the talent of Simin Ganatra, Sibbi Bernhardsson, Masumi Per Rostad and Brandon Vamos.

Professor Nancy Gaub, Music, was the main force in bringing the quartet to campus.

“I am the director of the chamber ensembles, which involves string quartets, and other small groups like that, and I really like to bring in, if I can, a string quartet,” Gaub said.

While historically there have been many visits of string quartets to Grinnell, in recent years, they haven’t been well represented. Gaub said she was thrilled to be able to bring in one of the best string quartets in the world to reintroduce the Grinnell community to string chamber music.

“I especially think it is important that we bring them in. Now, this group plays in all the biggest halls, all over the world, and [on Thursday] they [played] to people in Sebring-Lewis. It [was] a very intimate experience with this world-famous group,” Gaub explained.

The Pacifica Quartet was formed in 1994 and since then has received numerous awards for their interpretations of chamber music, including a Grammy in 2009. The ensemble has performed a variety of pieces over the years, from Mendelssohn to Beethoven to the works of contemporary composers.

On Thursday, the group performed three pieces of music, one from Beethoven, one from Mendelssohn and one from the modern composer Shulamit Ran. They chose the piece from Beethoven, entitled “La Malinconia,” to open their set.

“It’s one of my very favorite pieces,” Gaub said. “It starts with a very slow opening, but really the piece is extremely joyful.”

After their performance of Beethoven, the ensemble moved on to the piece by Ran. The work is called “Glitter, Doom, Shards, Memory,” and is based off the story of Felix Nussbaum. Nussbaum was a young Jewish painter who was killed during the Holocaust, but was able to paint during his last years in the concentration camp. The piece is strikingly emotional and was written to confront experiences of suffering, memory and joy.

The Pacifica Quartet has been in central Iowa for the last week, residing in Iowa City as a visiting “artist-in-residence.” During this time, Grinnell students were able to work with the world-famous musicians, and the group held private coaching with many of the Grinnell ensembles as part of the Noyce Master Class program.

“That was a really inspiring thing, for [Grinnell students] to get to know these people and, of course, to have their expertise,” Gaub said.

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