The Tesla Quartet joins faculty members on a musical journey through Italy

Courtesy / Matthew Makowski

Courtesy / Matthew Makowski

Mary Racette

The Tesla Quartet will bring a taste of Italy to the Cook-DeWitt Center Monday, Sept. 17 at 7:30 p.m. as they perform Tchaikovsky’s “String Sextet in D Minor, Op. 70 ‘Souvenir de Florence,’” following their performance of Franz Joseph Haydn’s “Quartet in B minor, Op. 33, No. 1.” The program is part of the university’s 16th annual Fall Arts Celebration, which is free and open to the public.  

The Tesla String Quartet is comprised of violinists Ross Snyder and Michelle Lie, violist Edwin Kaplan and cellist Serafim Smigelskiy. Since its origin in 2008 at Julliard , the quartet has built up an international name and award winning reputation. The quartet carries out their mission of community outreach by performing at schools and retirement homes.

“We like to let people who might not come to concerts have exposure to chamber music,” Smigelskiy said.   

The group first performed at GVSU for the Arts at Noon Concert Series in 2016 and is now returning for the Fall Arts Celebration.  

“The Tesla Quartet is a very exciting group,” Duitman said, “Bringing them to campus shows that Grand Valley as a university sponsors wonderful international artists to perform for the entire community.”

The “String Sextet in D Minor, Op. 70 ‘Souvenir de Florence” was chosen specifically by the quartet for its “variety of color.” Tchaikovsky has been praised for his “unique combination of instruments” creating a “rich and wonderful” piece.  

Tchaikovsky is more of a composer of symphonies rather than of quartets, Duitman said, which is why GVSU’s Affiliate Professor of Viola Paul Swantek and Associate Professor of Cello Pablo Mahave-Veglia will join the Tesla Quartet, forming a string sextet to perform ‘Souvenir de Florence.’

Swantek is currently a violist of the Grand Rapids Orchestra in addition to his career at the university.  Mahave-Veglia is an internationally known cellist who last year held a concerto tour of Chile. 

The New York based quartet is currently touring nationally, leaving little time to rehearse with the faculty members. Mahave-Veglia said this provides a unique opportunity for spectators to see how professional music collaboration works.

“I think that the performance is especially important because it is bringing guest artists to collaborate with local faculty,” Mahave-Veglia said. “It is (also) a very good example of how one works professionally in music”

The program reaches out to a wide rage of students, from music majors to the general population of students. Many music students are invited, as well as other non-major students who are interested in the arts.

The Tesla Quartet is only one of the many events featured in the Fall Arts Celebration, which Duitman said “music has always been an important part of.”

Spanning from September to December, the 16th Annual Fall Arts Celebration is providing the GVSU community with various art forms including music, dance and poetry. Most events are held at either GVSU’s Allendale campus or the Pew campus. The celebration will wrap up with its Holiday Celebration at the Fountain Street Church.  

“The Fall Arts Celebration is a win-win situation,” Duitman said. ”It is for both education and to show that Grand Valley State University is a champion of the arts and a proponent of music in west Michigan”.