Artist Interview: Lydia Artymiw, piano

By jwoods on February 7, 2012

For our eighth artist interview of the season, cellist Keith Robinson of the Miami Quartet was gracious enough to sit down and answer a few questions about the group's upcoming program at the Independence Seaport Museum. Here are his answers. I hope they help to illuminate the artist behind the music, and that learning a bit more about this program inspires you to attend the Miami's concert with Lydia Artymiw, piano on Sunday, February 12th at 3 pm.

Juliet Woods:  How did this program come together? Why did you choose these particular pieces?

The Miami Quartet

Keith Robinson:  Lydia Artymiw had talked about doing the Dohnanyi second piano quintet for years. We have played with Lydia for two decades now, and one of our favorite quintets to perform together was Dohnanyi's Quintet No. 1 in C Minor. A young, exuberant, and energetic work, audiences love it and we love to play it! The second quintet is a much more mature work, and much more sublime. Exquisitely beautiful, it is not quite as "heart on the sleeve" as the first quintet and is a very intimate experience.

We surround the Quintet with two war horses of the Quartet repertoire, Beethoven's Opus 18, No. 4 and Schubert's "Death and the Maiden". Beethoven's offering is probably his most famous of the early six quartets of opus 18 and the only one in a minor key. Dark and brooding, this quartet is the most complete of his early opus. The "Death and the Maiden" Quartet is easily Schubert's most famous quartet and one of the most famous pieces in all of the chamber music repertoire. The quartet gets it's name from the second movement theme and variation movement based on Schubert's song with the same name. Composed in 1824, after the composer suffered through a serious illness and realized that he was dying, it is Schubert's testament to death. The quartet is named for the theme of the second movement, which Schubert took from a song he wrote in 1817 of the same title, but the theme of death is palpable in all four movements of the quartet.

JW:  What are the most important aspects to incorporate into a quartet? How has the quartet evolved over the years?

KR:  The success of the string quartet in today's concert halls is a testament to the composers who have devoted their creativity to the form. Starting with Haydn, and continuing with Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Brahms to more recent composers like Shostakovich and Bartok, these composers might best be represented by their quartet contributions. It is an honor to be able to sit on a stage and perform these masterworks for a willing and receptive audience with three other colleagues who have the same appreciation and devotion to the art.

JW:  You are joining forces with Lydia Artimiw for the Dohnanyi Quintet. Can you tell me a little more about this experience? How does bringing a fifth member to the group change your dynamic?

KR:  I love the piano quintet experience. While you might lose the intimate four-voice collaboration you get with a string quartet alone, you augment the sound palette with a timbre and a huge circumference of sound that can be truly orchestral at times. Rather than a five-voice experience, the addition of a piano at the hands of most composers turns into a two-partner dance between the piano and the quartet. Playing piano quintets with Lydia Artymiw is like being in the finals of Dancing with the Stars! She is a huge player, and it takes every ounce of energy to keep up with her, on an emotional and a physical level.

The Miami Quartet and Lydia Artymiw, piano appear on Sunday, February 12th at 3 pm and the Independence Seaport Museum. For tickets and information, visit the concert page or call the PCMS Box Office at 215-569-8080.