“You have to be a little crazy to play string quartets professionally. Working as a professional string quartet is one of the toughest businesses,” says Yinzi Kong, violist in The Vega Quartet. String quartets are commonly described as “a marriage of four.” Imagine twice the friction in personalities and agendas, and only half of the benefits. Quartet members still have to do taxes separately and have no shared expenses on houses or cars or medical insurance, and the list goes on.
It was nearly a twenty-year journey for the Vega String Quartet to find its permanent home in Atlanta, Ga., in 2006. They first started as a student group at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music in China in the 1990s. Now Quartet-in-Residence at Emory University, the Vega has won numerous national and international awards and prizes, enjoys an international performance career, and is passing on their love and knowledge of chamber music to the next generation of students and audiences with passion and determination.
Here’s some advice the Vega Quartet shared about what it takes to stick with it: One cannot start too young or too old. A quartet musician needs to be good enough to notice what the other three are doing, quickly adjust and compromise while still occupied with his own notes. Quartet members see each other more than their own families, so if you already have a family, you don’t have time to start a quartet. Oh, and, except for the extremely lucky few, quartet members make almost no money! Most quartets form in their college years and break off soon after graduation when reality sets in. So why string-quartet? Well, the literature of the string quartet is some of the most sublime, most expressive, most powerful and yet the most intimate ever written! As Ludwig Van Beethoven said, “I know of no greater delight than string quartet.”
The Vega has endured its own rough patches, as almost all long-running quartets have experienced, through relocations (Shanghai, Boca Raton, New York, Atlanta) to member changes (three cellists, seven violinists) and the painful years when four of them had to share a small apartment in New York with single digit dollar amounts in their bank accounts. “Yes, violinists are always most problematic and violists are the least,” says Yinzi. These patches are exactly what makes the journey memorable and unique. Together, Domenic Salerni and Jessica Shuang Wu, violins, Yinzi Kong, viola and Guang Wang, cello, pour through their music honestly, sincerely and richly.
The Vega Quartet heats up the Prelude Chamber Music Festival in Jacksonville with a concert on Thursday, June 16th at 7 p.m. in the Riverside Park United Methodist Church. On the program are Joseph Haydn’s String Quartet Op. 77, #1 (it is always proper to start a string quartet concert with a work by Haydn, the one who invented the string quartet); Leos Janacek’s Quartet #2 titled the “Kreutzer Sonata” (first a Beethoven violin sonata, then Tolstoy’s novella about a tragic love triangle before being returned into musical notes); and the finale is Felix Mendelssohn’s Quartet Op. 44, #1 – filled with fleeting notes, beautiful melodies and rich textures.
Come enjoy the fruit of many years of hard work, struggle, and passion distilled into one intoxicating musical experience.
PreludeChamberMusic.org and VegaQuartet.com