Piano quartet charms, inspires

1:45:36 PM CDT - Friday, February 11, 2005

By Shannon Littlejohn

Fans of classical music will no doubt be charmed by the elegance and passion of the Los Angeles Piano Quartet, which will perform on campus Sunday, Feb. 13, as part of the College of Fine Arts Connoisseur Series.

This professional troupe has wowed audiences and critics across the United States and Europe as the premier ensemble of its kind. According to the Kansas City Star, "You'll not hear sweeter, more delicate, more fluent, more flawlessly tuned string playing anywhere."

The Los Angeles Piano Quartet

The Los Angeles Piano Quartet will perform at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 13, in Wiedemann Hall.  Members are left to right, Peter Retjo, Michi Wankcko, Katherine Murdock and Xak Bjerken.  Murdock coincidentally shares the same name as a WSU composer.

Julie Bees, professor of piano for the School of Music at WSU, is looking forward to their performance, especially on the music students' behalf.

"We like to bring in performers who will inspire our students, and there's just nothing like hearing wonderful music well played to inspire someone to play and become a better musician," she said.

Bees is pleased with the program the quartet will present.

"The repertoire they're playing is beautiful," she said. "There are not a lot of piano quartets out there doing this music."

In Wichita, the quartet will perform Mozart's Quartet in G minor for violin, viola, cello and piano, K. 478; Brahms' Piano Quartet in C minor, Op. 60; and Ernest Chausson's Quartet in A Major for piano and strings, Op. 30.

While in town, the quartet will also offer a free master class from 10:30 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 14, to coach the various chamber music ensembles at WSU.

Bees had a chance to hear cellist Peter Retjo in the '70s. Rejto, she said, is the only original member still performing since the quartet debuted in 1977.

Joining Rejto, a professor of cello at the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, are violist Katherine Murdock, currently on faculty at the University of Maryland and SUNY Stony Brook; violinist Michi Wankcko, who has toured extensively as soloist, recitalist and chamber musician since making her Los Angeles Philharmonic debut in 1997; and pianist Xak Bjerken, a professor of piano at Cornell University who has given solo and chamber music recitals throughout Europe and the United States.
The group has appeared abroad at the Cheltenham Festival in England, as well as in extensive performances in Amsterdam, Hamburg and Rome.

In the United States, the quartet has been a fixture at major chamber music presentations from coast to coast and has been repeatedly featured on Minnesota Public Radio's "St. Paul Sunday" and New York's "Live from WNCN." The group has also been featured during performances at the Library of Congress and the National Gallery in Washington, D.C

The College of Fine Arts Connoisseur Series will present the Los Angeles Piano Quartet at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 13, in Wiedemann Recital Hall. Tickets are $16 with discounts available. Call the College of Fine Arts Box Office at 978-3233 for more information.

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