Quartet becomes septet for first-ever performance

Nicole Hennessy

Violins, piano to join cellists

Photo courtesy of Eftihia Tsengas

Credit: DKS Editors

With smiling eyes, Keith Robinson of the Miami String Quartet demonstrated the variety of melodies produced by the cello.

“It covers such a wide range, from a bass to a tenor,” he explained.

The Miami String Quartet, Kent’s quartet-in-residence, also features two violins and a viola.

As part of the Thomas Schroth Visiting Artist Series, the quartet will perform at 8 p.m. today at the Reinberger Chamber Hall in Cleveland along with the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson trio.

Also a cellist, Keith’s sister Sharon Robinson plays with the KLR trio.

“We’re really lucky to be able to play together,” she said. “A lot of siblings drift apart.”

Coming from a musical family, Keith claimed it wasn’t a matter of “if you’ll play, but what instrument (you will play).”

Both Robinsons began playing the cello at the age of five.

“The cello really is part of who I am,” he said in a soft but excitable tone of voice. “The cello gave me a purpose.”

Showing an equal amount of passion and respect for the instrument, Sharon described it as her “constant companion.”

“I love the voice of the cello, it’s not high pitched like the violin,” she said. “It’s the most human instrument; its voice is a human voice. That always drew me to the cello.”

At their performance tonight, the two ensembles will come together to form one septet.

A piano, three violins and a viola will join the two cellos.

Opening with a piece Sharon calls a “delicious quintet” will be Boccherini’s Cello Quintet in E Major for Strings G. 275 (Op. 11, No. 5).

“It is light music and easily appreciated by audiences,” Keith said.

The second piece will be the Ohio premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich’s Piano and String Septet.

Written for this group of musicians, it is possibly the first-ever work written for this combination of instruments.

“We were always frustrated because there was no piece written for all seven of us,” Sharon said. “It is a symbiotic, wonderful relationship. It’s always amazing working with great living composers.”

The performance will close with Schumann Quintet for Piano and Strings in E-flat Major, Op. 44.

“We almost always finish a concert with a romantic piece,” Keith said as he described the more sensual and melodic lines of romantic-era composers like Schumann.

Sharon said she hopes the audience attending this free concert will “feel joyous at the end of the concert; like they’ve been filled up with beautiful music.”

The members of the Miami String Quartet practice a repertoire for three hours a day.

“As a member of a quartet, it is something you do together on a daily basis,” Keith said. “Once the technique is out of the way, the music speaks for itself.”

He claimed anyone can enjoy the performance, but each member of the audience will have a different experience.

“Music is universal in that it’s a language that can be understood by all,” Keith said. “It’s understood and interpreted on an individual basis.”

Contact performing arts reporter Nicole Hennessy at [email protected].