On Sunday, Goshen College welcomed the Ulysses Quartet to campus to play as a part of the Rieth Chamber Series. This concert was the second in the line-up.The quartet has members from Prince Edward Island, California, Pennsylvania and Taiwan. It was formed in the summer of 2015.
By 2016, they were the String Division Gold Medalists and Grand Prize Winners of the Fischoff Competition at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend.
“We are quite lucky to have the Fischoff competition occur so close to Goshen, and to get the winning performers to come give a recital every year,” said Benjamin Wiebe, a junior orchestra member. He noted that Fischoff is the preeminent chamber music competition in the nation, and groups who win go on to have successful music careers.
Members of the Ulysses Quartet have performed in prestigious halls such as Esterhazy Palace, Carnegie Hall and the Taiwan National Concert Hall.
Before beginning the concert, violinist Christina Bouey said the quartet was thrilled to perform in a beautiful hall such as Reith.
Peter Paetkau, a senior orchestra member, was in attendance on Sunday.
“I thought [the quartet] performed at a very high level and played very well together,” said Paetkau. “They play very musically and with very intentional phrasing and maturity.”
Overall, he felt the musicians were accomplished and that hearing them play was a wonderful opportunity.
“It’s always nice to have great performers come to campus,” said Paetkau.
Wiebe also attended the performance. He found that the quartet had “impeccable intonation.”
“While I think they could have communicated more effectively as a group,” he said, “I realize that they have only been performing together for a year, so I’m sure that connection will come.”
At the concert, the quartet played three pieces with four movements each.
The first piece was by Brahms, while the following two were by Haydn and Janácek.
“I loved the angsty final minutes of the Brahms, and much of the sensual quartet by Janácek when they weren’t afraid to venture into strained, almost ugly sound production to convey the intense emotions of the pieces,” said Wiebe.
Before performing the last piece, violinist Rhiannon Banerdt spoke about the quartet’s connection to the music they were about to play.
She mentioned it was their favorite piece and one of the first that the group wanted to play together after they formed.
After playing the three planned pieces, the quartet received a standing ovation. They decided to perform an additional piece, a lullaby by Gershwin.
The name “Ulysses” is a tribute to Homer’s hero Odysseus and the ten-year voyage he took home.
The quartet’s base is also in Washington Heights, New York City, which lies close to the resting place of former U.S. president Ulysses S. Grant.
In addition to being in the quartet, the members also hold principal positions in ensembles like the Cape Symphony, Cayuga Chamber Orchestra, A Far Cry Chamber Orchestra and Broadway orchestras.
The quartet members have received degrees from Juilliard School, New England Conservatory, Manhattan School of Music and Yale University.
“I would encourage others to take advantage of this opportunity to hear great chamber music in the future,” said Wiebe.
The Rieth Chamber Series continues with another performance on Sunday, Nov. 6 at 4:00 p.m.