The Tesla String Quartet returns for a birthday celebration


Courtesy / GVSU

Ayron Rutan, Staff Writer

After missing out on their fall 2020 performance due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tesla String Quartet is back at Grand Valley State University to celebrate the 251st birthday of legendary composer Ludwig van Beethoven. 

Since this performance was supposed to take place last year, the title has been changed from “Birthday Party for Beethoven” to “Belated Birthday Party for Beethoven.” 

The group will be performing some of his most famous works, including one of the well-known quartets from Beethoven’s Opus 18 set, on Oct. 4 at 7:30 p.m. in the Cook-Dewitt Center.

The Tesla String Quartet is a 4-piece musical group composed of violinist Ross Snyder, violinist Michelle Lie, violist Edwin Kaplan and cellist Serafim Smigelskiy. 

The group formed at The Juilliard School in 2008 and quickly established itself as one of the most promising young ensembles in New York, winning Second Prize at the J.C. Arriaga Chamber Music Competition only a few months after its inception. 

From 2009 to 2012, the quartet held a fellowship as the Graduate String Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Colorado-Boulder, where they studied with the world-renowned Takács Quartet. 

The group has also held fellowships at the Aspen Music Festival’s Center for Advanced Quartet Studies, the Britten-Pears Young Artist Program and the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival.

The Tesla Quartet has won top prizes in numerous international competitions, most recently taking Second Prize, the Haydn Prize and the Canadian Commission Prize at the 12th Banff International String Quartet Competition. 

In 2018, the Tesla Quartet released its debut album of Haydn, Ravel, and Stravinsky quartets on the Orchid Classics label to critical acclaim.

Henry Duitman, the Director of Orchestras at GVSU, helped to coordinate the event for the Music, Theatre, and Dance (MTD) Department. 

Duitman said this isn’t the first time the famed quartet has traveled to Allendale, and that one of the main reasons they’re back is because of their appeal to the student body. 

“This will be the fourth time Tesla has performed at GVSU,” Duitman said. “They performed twice in the GVSU Arts at Noon series before it was canceled due to lack of funding. We are having them back because of their exceptional artistry and the fact that, as a quartet which has all young members, the players relate very well with our students.” 

The Tesla Quartet will not be the only group of musicians performing on Oct. 4. 

Four Grand Valley faculty members will be joining the group to assist in the performance of Mendelssohn’s “Octet.” Letitia Jap will be playing the violin, Paul Swantek will be on the viola, and Pablo Mahave-Veglia will be playing his cello. 

Duitman said he believes that the concert will be an important event for the GVSU community.

“This will be the first live music event on campus with guest artists since the pandemic shut down and it is our conviction that it will truly give everyone in the audience a joyous sense of relief that we can again hear great music in a live performance,” Duitman said. 

The performance is free, and all performers and attendees will be masked. 

Students should be prepared to show their Laker Link Event Pass, and GVSU will be recording contact information for all attendees for contact tracing purposes. 

Before entering the performance, all audience members must have completed their daily self-assessment. Visitors can fill one out here: