Artist Interview: Yumi Kendall, Dryden Quartet

By Patrick Burke on February 11, 2014

Joining us on February 17, the Dryden Quartet is described by the Philadelphia Inquirer as "fearless, flexible and fiery". The quartet's cellist, and acting Associate Principal of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Yumi Kendall (center) was kind enough to answer a few questions earlier this month about their upcoming performance, the history of the ensemble and her summers at Marlboro.

Patrick Burke: The quartet will perform the Ginastera String Quartet No. 1 — a composer and work rarely heard on our series — which features many of the composer’s characteristic styles and harmonies. Could you talk about this work and why you chose to pair this with the Haydn and the Schubert?

Yumi Kendall: We decided several years ago to add the Ginastera to our repertoire, at the request of our grandfather, John Dryden Kendall (after whom our quartet is named, and who also taught all of us as Suzuki students). He highly recommended that we learn it; he loved this quartet in particular, and he even gave us the music that he'd used. Perhaps by including it in our PCMS program, we are paying homage to Grandfather...

PB: Most of the members in the quartet spend a majority of their musical careers playing in large ensembles. Could you describe how playing in a quartet is a creative outlet for you, and what are the differences in playing within a smaller ensemble?

YK: There is something so intimate and personal about playing chamber music; there is something even more personal, even vulnerable, when playing chamber music with family (and we include Nurit as family, not only for who she is, but also for our history and shared backgrounds). Nicolas and I often read each others' minds, or finish each others's sentences; Nurit seamlessly joins in; Daniel might turn to me in rehearsal, or I to him, and before either of us says a word, we've agreed on the spot, and on what to change. Such examples show our personal interaction and creative independence in playing chamber music.

However, when it comes to musical disagreements, it might be easier to re-align the planets...
PB: While all of you attended Curtis, you did not all overlap simultaneously; you also have other areas of shared background in addition to three of you being related. Could you tell us a brief history about the early days of the group's formation?
YK: We owe our formation to the annual Kendall/Foster family holiday gatherings, a tradition that has been going on for decades. The one in particular was Thanksgiving 2001, Nurit's first year as concertmaster of the National Symphony Orchestra, and Nicolas and I, back from school, were in DC for the Kendall/Foster holiday. The family had invited Nurit over, and, as is common practice in our family, we asked her to bring her violin, and we also brought along our instruments so we could read chamber music in the living room. Of course, Grandfather was sitting in the armchair with his arms folded and enjoying the proceedings....and after we read the slow movement of Beethoven op 59 #2, we turned to one another and said..."hey, guys, we don't sound half bad...we should...we should DO this..!"
The rest is history.
PB: You were both a participant of the Marlboro Music Festival and the Musicians from Marlboro tour. How did your experience there shape you as an artist?
YK: It was my summers at Marlboro that crystalized my self-perception as the forever student I am now. By playing with senior, seasoned artists and other burgeoning students in a timeless sort of musical greenhouse, Marlboro creates an environment removed from the pressures of time and rigors of performance. I carry that environment with me, and as a result, I feel that more than anything, we create music rather than produce it.

The Dryden Quartet appear on Monday, February 17, 2014 at the American Philosophical Society. For tickets and information visit the concert page.

For more information on the Dryden Quartet, please visit their website.