Telegraph Quartet Wins Naumburg Chamber Music Competition

Janos Gereben on September 27, 2016
The Telegraph Quartet | Credit: Eric Chin

San Francisco’s Telegraph Quartet is only three years old, but it’s already nationally known, and now it has received a major new honor. Last Friday, the Telegraph won the Walter W. Naumburg Foundation’s 2016 Chamber Music Competition in New York. Just a year after violinists Eric Chin and Joseph Maile, violist Pei-Ling Lin, and cellist Jeremiah Shaw formed the quartet, they were named the 2014–2015 Ensemble-in-Residence, sponsored by San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music. In three years, they have become known across the U.S. and in Europe for performances called “unflaggingly outgoing, committed, and creative.”

Violinist Maile, co-founder of the quartet, told SFCV about the Naumburg after flying back to San Francisco from the competition and spending Saturday teaching in the San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s Pre-College program, along with quartet members Chin and Lin:

We are incredibly honored to have won the Walter W. Naumburg Chamber Music Award. As students we grew up hearing about this competition from many of our beloved mentors - SFCM teachers Mark Sokol of the Concord Quartet and Ian Swensen of the Meliora Quartet, both previous winners of the Naumburg Award. Just having a crack at competing for the Award has always been on our bucket list.

We could feel the good vibrations when we showed up at the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the venue of the competition, only to be greeted in our warm-up room by portraits of two composers — George Rochberg and Leon Kirchner — whose works we performed minutes later.

Both composers had been members of the Academy in former years and their photos were among those of the hundreds of illustrious artists, architects, and composers lining the walls, so we had a whole lot of history backing us up right to the end. We have many musical friends, family and audience to thank, in San Francisco and abroad, who supported us through our preparation up to the competition, and we really could not have brought this one home without their help and belief in us as musicians.

The quartet at the wall of dignitaries displayed at the American Academy of Arts and Letters, venue for the Nauburg competition

The chamber music prize includes a recital in Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall as well as a commissioned work by the eminent American composer Robert Sirota.

Other competing ensembles included the Zora Quartet, the Verona Quartet, and the yMusic Ensemble. Each group performed a 55-minute recital for a panel of judges that included Samuel Rhodes, Bonnie Hampton, Andrew Jennings, David Geber, Anton Nel, Charles Neidich, and Nicholas Mann.

In addition to many performances during the 2016–17 season, the Telegraph has been invited to participate in the St. Lawrence String Quartet’s Emerging String Quartet Program at Stanford University — a week-long residency that will involve mentoring by the St. Lawrence, joint performances with the SLSQ, and community outreach events.

Calling itself “a constant champion of contemporary and 20th-century repertoire,” the Telegraph Quartet will be cocommissioning John Harbison’s newest work for the form, his String Quartet No. 6, scheduled for 2017. The Quartet will also be releasing their debut album in the coming season, featuring works by Anton Webern, Benjamin Britten, and Leon Kirchner.