Schumann String Quartet will open Chamber series

Group coming to U.S. solely to play in Saratoga Springs
The Schumann String Quartet
The Schumann String Quartet

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The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s summer season opens Sunday, Aug. 5. For the first two concerts the Schumann String Quartet, currently considered the hottest quartet on the circuit, will be featured.

“We’re happy to get these reviews but music is the most important thing,” said Ken Schumann from Germany where the quartet is based. “It takes a quartet a long time to get good and be successful. We’re working hard. (The quartet had just completed a seven-hour rehearsal before the interview.) It’s a long process and we’re curious as to where it will lead.”

The quartet has been together for ten years, but what makes the group interesting is that its members are three brothers and a female violist from Estonia.

“Yes, my father, whose name is Robert like the composer, is a violinist who works in Dusseldorf  where the composer lived and my mother, who is Japanese, is a very good pianist,” Schumann said. “We’re a very musical family. My brother Eric is the oldest at 36 and plays violin; I’m 32 and play violin; and my brother Mark is 30 and plays cello. I also have a younger sister Lisa who plays violin but we needed a violist, which is why she doesn’t play with us.”

Initially, they worked with a violist from Japan and made a recording but she decided to return there in 2012 to get married. Their agent suggested they contact violist Liisa Randalu.
“I wrote to her and she came and played a concert with us and it went well,” Schumann said. “She matched the group especially personally.”

Since then the quartet has been touring the world and recorded four discs that have received many awards. Two years ago, it also began a three-year residency with CMSLC in New York City. Their trip to Saratoga Springs is not only their debut on the festival, it is the only reason they’re coming to this country. 

“Yes, we’re coming for only one week and immediately returning to Germany and the Netherlands to tour. In the fall will be a U.S. tour,” Schumann said, adding that in typical fashion, CMSLC co-director Wu Han has mixed the personnel up for both concerts.

“Violinist Nicholas Dautricourt is playing instead of me on the Shostakovich Quartet, Op. 57. But it’s all of us on the Beethoven Quartet, Op. 131. We’ve not recorded that. That’s the Mount Everest of the quartet literature. It’s very challenging. We play it and put it away and bring it out. It’s ongoing,” he said.

A Schnittke violin/piano piece is also scheduled.

On Tuesday Aug. 7, Eric and Mark will play on the Haydn Trio with pianist Gilles Vonsattel. Then Liisa and Mark will be part of the Schubert Quintet (“Trout”), but the Schumann Quartet will play the Dvorak Quartet, Op. 51.

 In a special concert at 1 p.m. Aug. 8, Ken will play solo violin with music by Bruce Adolphe in a family concert “Meet the Music!  Albert (Einstein) and Mozart.”  Tickets are $5.
“It will be a new experience: I’ll talk. And why not?” Schumann said laughing.

The other concerts are Aug. 12 with members of the Philadelphia Orchestra in music by Haydn, Schubert and Kreisler; Aug. 14 is “An Evening in Prague” with Dvorak, Janacek and Suk; Aug. 19 is “Timeless Masterworks” by Mozart, Villa-Lobos, Mackey and Schumann; and the finale Aug. 21 “The Composer’s World” with Debussy, Stravinsky and Brahms.

Concert chats are 45 minutes before each concert.


Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center

WHEN: 3 p.m. Aug. 5, 12, 19; 8 p.m. Aug. 7, 14, 21
WHERE: Spa Little Theatre
HOW MUCH: $45-$50
MORE INFO: 518-584-9330;

Aug. 5: Schnittke, Shostakovich, Beethoven
Aug. 7: Haydn, Dvorak, Schubert
Aug. 8: (family concert) Adolphe
Aug. 12: Haydn, Schubert, Kreisler
Aug. 14: Dvorak, Janacek, Suk
Aug. 19: Mozart, Villa-Lobos, Mackey, Schumann
Aug. 21: Debussy, Stravinsky, Brahms

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