String quartet makes 10th appearance in Jacobs summer series

As part of IU’s Summer Music Festival at the Jacobs School of Music, Jerzy Kaplanek, Jacob Braun, Christine Vlajk and Bell will perform for a Bloomington audience at 8 p.m. Thursday, June 21, in Auer Hall.

The second part will take place at 4 p.m. Sunday in Auer Hall.

“It’s possibly one of the most impressive campuses in the world,” Bell said.

“We come here fully aware of this being one of the great, great music schools in the world. When I first came here I couldn’t believe I was actually here. I had grown up revering the place so completely that to suddenly find I was on stage, I was pinching myself.”

Bell, alongside two United States natives and a fellow violinist from Poland, will celebrate the quartet’s 25th year in existence with tours at festivals in Brazil, Spain, Ukraine, Germany, Poland and China, with other appearances in the U.S.

The Penderecki Quartet, which formed at Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music in Katowice, Poland, is now the quartet-in-residence at Wilfrid Laurier University in
Waterloo, Ontario.

Kaplanek has been with the quartet for 24 years.

“We’re doing it for repertoire and the sake of playing music, but we all need to do something with our lives,” Kaplanek said. “We’re very fortunate because we’re doing for a living what we love to do. It’s a good life.”

This will be the 10th year the quartet participates in the summer series.

Vlajk has been the ensemble’s violist for 15 years, while Braun joined on the cello just three years ago.

“To have repeat visitors participate in our programs makes for a double gift,” said Tom Wieligman, director of the Summer Music Series. “Their level of expertise is extremely high, plus the continuity of repeat visits makes for consistently high levels of interaction with our students.”

Members of the quartet spend a week in Bloomington guest teaching for the Summer String Academy. Mimi Zweig, Jacobs School professor and director of the academy, chose Beethoven as this year’s theme.

The Penderecki Quartet’s performances will feature Parts I and II in the cycle of six Beethoven String Quartets to be performed throughout the summer by four internationally known ensembles.

“It holds a special place in the hearts of music lovers to hear all of them at once during one season,” Kaplanek said. “It’s a very enriching experience not only artistically, but also as a life experience. This is the core of the string repertoire, and it’s
very special.”

As a member for 13 years, Bell has played his fair share of venues.

“I’m proud to have been on the stages in places like the Concertgebouw in
Amsterdam,” Bell said.

“It’s exciting to be part of a rich history that is so awe-inspiring. To think I’m a nice dot on that continuum is humbling, but it’s also very inspiring to be on the great concert stages in the world.”

He said transitioning from a freelance musician to traveling the world made his first year particularly intense.

“I jumped in midseason, had a week to prepare for the first concert, and it was nonstop concerts after that,” he added. “It was trial by fire.”

Although bouncing around has taken its toll, Bell said he has always loved
to travel.

“Seeing new cultures is endlessly fascinating,” he said. “I was always dreaming about being in a situation to see the world through music, and I’m very grateful for that.”

Kaplanek said even the members’ diverse backgrounds play into the ensemble’s effectiveness.

“It’s great,” he said. “We complement each other with different knowledge from the different educations we’ve received, and the music making is richer because we have those different backgrounds. It’s a really strong asset to the group because when we work together, we constantly comment on each other and the sound of the group.”

Looking ahead to the concerts, the members said they are up to fulfilling

“It doesn’t happen every day the Beethoven cycle is presented,” Bell said.

“I think when it happens, and you know the audience is going to go through this incredible journey, you want to really step up to the plate and give them the best experience possible because they are such incredible works.”

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