Esterhazy Quartet Marks 20 Years at Berklee

Front row, from the left:  Esterhazy Quartet members Eva Szekely, Juile Rosenfeld, Leslie Perna, and Eli Lara. Back row: Student composers Sarah Chong Kar Ann and Nikhil Singh, professor Andrew List, and students Matt Scutchfield and Jordan Kerr.

In October 2016, the Esterhazy Quartet marked their 20th visit to Berklee to work with student and faculty composers. Andrew List, a professor in the Composition Department, developed the idea for the residency in 1996 to offer students the opportunity to explore and write in the string quartet genre and to gain experience hearing their music performed and critiqued by a world-class ensemble. During the past two decades, the quartet has performed and recorded more than 223 student compositions. Many past student participants have since launched careers as composers. List organizes and oversees every aspect of the quartet’s residency from selecting the student scores to booking concert halls to arranging for video recording of the events.

During the weeklong residency, the Esterhazy Quartet presents four events. The focal point is the reading and recording of student compositions. In a very intensive masterclass setting, the quartet plays, discusses, and records each composition. The process helps students develop their compositional skill and technique and gain vital experience working with top-notch performers. The videotaped sessions and materials are later housed in the media center where they become a study resource for all students. The quartet also presents a lecture discussing new compositions by living composers and illustrating important aspects of string quartet writing.

The Esterhazy Quartet was formed in 1968 as the ensemble in residence of the University of Missouri. The group is widely recognized for its commitment to performing and promoting the music of our time—especially modern music of the Americas. They are credited with commissioning, premiering, and recording several new American string quartets.

“Having a piece read by the Esterhazy Quartet was beyond illuminating,” student composer Nakhil Singh says. “The chance to have such remarkable musicians not only examine the music carefully, but also play it and respond to it organically, made me consider things I would never otherwise have thought to address in my writing.”