Annual Competition

Chamber Music Yellow Springs 34th Annual Competition for Emerging Professional Ensembles

Chamber Music in Yellow Springs’ Annual Competition for Emerging Professional Ensembles has been an integral part of our series since its foundation in 1985. Our unique competition offers ensembles the opportunity to choose their own repertoire to perform for in a live concert as one of two finalists.

The 34th annual competition will be held April 28, 2019, 4 pm., at the First Presbyterian Church in Yellow Springs. This year’s judges will be Dr. Ching-Chun Lai, visiting professor/interim orchestra conductor at The Ohio State University; Matt Landry, executive director and member of the Akropolis Reed Quintet; and Marna Street, former principal viola of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

1. Ensembles may include 3 to 6 players. Both U.S. and non-U.S. residents are eligible.
2. Ensemble members may be no more than 35 years old on the day of the Competition, and the average age of ensemble members must not exceed 30 years.
3. No more than one member of the ensemble may have performed previously in a concert sponsored by CMYS.


Entry Fee: A non-refundable entry fee of $75.00 is required of all ensembles.


Prizes: $4,000 First Prize; $3,000 Second Prize


Entry Deadline: January 31, 2019


Finals: April 28, 2019

We look forward to receiving your entry materials and to selecting the competition finalists for 2019.  All applications for the 2019 Competition must be submitted here through acceptd.

2018 Competition winner The Julius Quartet and semi-finalist Thalea String Quartet

The Julius Quartet

Hailed as “the captivating young string quartet” (The Bennington Banner), the Julius Quartet is rapidly making itself known in the chamber music world. Formed in the fall of 2012, the group held a special residency as “The Boston Conservatory’s Honors String Quartet”. The quartet was recently appointed as the Peak Fellowship Ensemble-in-Residence at the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University, and previously served as the Graduate Quartet-in-Residence at the John J. Cali School of Music at Montclair State University, where they worked intensely with the celebrated Shanghai Quartet. The quartet is comprised of violinists Hyun Jeong Helen Lee and David Do, violist John Batchelder, and cellist Byron Hogan. In addition to the Shanghai Quartet, other primary mentors and influences include Rhonda Rider, Mark Steinberg, Leonard Matczynski, Lila Brown, and Judith Eissenberg. Currently, the Julius quartet is mentored by violinist Aaron Boyd, Director of Chamber Music at SMU, and members of the Escher String Quartet.



Thalea String Quartet

Formed in 2014 at the Zephyr International Chamber Music Festival in Courmayeur, Italy, the Thalea String Quartet has been praised for their “vibrant performance” and “sincere expressivity” (SF Classical Voice). The quartet has performed recitals in Italy, France, the United States and Canada and was appointed as the first quartet-in-residence at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music from 2015-17. They were named one of the “Top 10 Bay Area Quartets You Should Know” by and were the recipients of the 2016 Barbara Fritz Chamber Music Award from the Berkeley Piano Club. They made their debut at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC in early 2016. The Thalea Quartet has been fortunate to have been mentored by members of the Juilliard, Kronos, Takács, Pacifica and Danish String Quartets. During their multiple residencies at the Banff  Centre they worked with Gilbert Kalish, Mark Steinberg, Alasdair Tait and the JACK and Miró Quartets. Christopher Whitley (violin) is originally from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Kumiko Sakamoto (violin) is from Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada; Luis Bellorín (viola) is from Naperville, Illinois, and Titilayo Ayangade (cello) is from Cincinnati, Ohio.




The following esteemed musicians were the judges for the 2018 Competition:

Chris Jenkins, Associate Dean for Academic Support at Oberlin Conservatory

Matt Albert, Chair of Chamber Music at the School of Music, Theatre & Dance at the University of Michigan

Mark Gibson, music director of the CCM Philharmonia Orchestra



About the 2017 Competition Winners

Trio St. Bernard

The Trio St. Bernard formed in the summer of 2015 at the Taos School of Music.  Pianist Sahun (Sam) Hong is currently a graduate student at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, while violinist Brandon Garbot and cellist Zachary Mowitz are graduate students at the Curtis Institute of Music.

The trio has received guidance from members of the Borromeo, Shanghai, and Brentano Quartets as well as Leon Fleisher, Ida Kavafian, Robert McDonald, and Michael Tree.

As an ensemble, Trio St. Bernard has performed in Peabody’s Griswold Hall and Johns Hopkins’ Shriver Hall, as well as at other venues in Philadelphia, Princeton, Maryland, and North Carolina. In January of 2016 they were an ensemble-in-residence at the Four Seasons Chamber Music Festival, where they collaborated with violist Hsin-Yun Huang. In the summer of 2016, they were invited to Music from Angel Fire as a resident ensemble, and the following fall they held a short residency at St. Andrew’s School in Middletown, DE.

Vera Quartet

The Vera Quartet is currently Graduate Quartet-in-Residence at the Jacobs School of Music of Indiana University, studying with the Pacifica Quartet. The Vera Quartet, comprised of Pedro Rodriguez, violin, Patricia Quintero, violin, Ines Picado, viola, and Justin Goldsmith, cello, formed at the Jacobs School of Music in 2015.

The Vera Quartet was invited to perform at the Beethovenhaus in Bonn, Germany, during the spring of 2016. Last summer the quartet was selected to take part in the Chamber Music Residency at the Banff Centre in Canada, and in January 2017 they were invited to the Robert Mann String Quartet Seminar at the Manhattan School of Music. This year the Vera Quartet was one of five artists selected by NPR’s Performance Today to spend a week as the show’s Young Artist in Residence. In March they will be representing Indiana University on a tour of Korea and they will perform Tan Dun’s Concerto for String Quartet and Pipa with famed pipa player Wu Man as part of the China Remixed Festival.

In addition to working with the Pacifica Quartet, the Vera Quartet has been coached by Atar Arad, Mauricio Fuks, Alex Kerr, Peter Stumpf, Mark Steinberg, Richard Lester, Hsin-Yun Huang, Barry Shiffman, Joshua Bell, Martin Beaver, Ani Kavafian, Peter Winograd, Wolfram Koessel, David Geber, Nicholas Mann, Kazuhide Isomura and Samuel Rhodes.

The judges for the 2017 Competition were:

Afa Dworkin, President and Artistic Director of the Sphinx Organization.

James Tocco, internationally acclaimed pianist and Professor and Eminent Scholar of Chamber Music at University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

Jeffrey Zeigler, the internationally acclaimed cellist, who formerly played with the Kronos Quartet.


About the 2016 Winners

Olympus Piano Trio

Olympus Piano Trio

Rolston String Quartet

Rolston String Quartet

The Rolston Quartet was named first place winner of our 31st Annual Competition for Emerging Professional Ensembles by our judges: Eric Charnofsky, Pianist/Composer, Case Western Reserve University; Mari Sato, Cavani Quartet/Cleveland Institute of Music; and Stephen Shipps, Professor of Violin, University of Michigan. The second place prize went to the Olympus Piano Trio. Both performed beautifully, with the Rolston’s Bartok String Quartet, No. 3, and Beethoven String Quartet Opus 59, No. 2, winning out over the Olympus’ Ravel Trio in A minor, Shostakovich Trio No. 2 in E minor, Op. 67, and the Mendelssohn Trio No. 2 in C minor. Op 66.

  • Maurice Ravel: Piano Trio in A minor
  • Dmitri Shostakovich: Piano Trio no. 2 in E minor, Op. 67
  • Felix Mendelssohn: Piano Trio no. 2 in C minor, Op. 66

  • Béla Bartók: String Quartet No. 3, Sz. 85
  • Ludwig van Beethoven: String Quartet No. 8 in E minor, Op. 59, No. 2

Finals Judges:

  • Stephen Shipps, Professor of Violin, University of Michigan
  • Mari Sato, Cavani Quartet/Cleveland Institute of Music
  • Eric Charnofsky, Pianist/Composer, Case Western Reserve University
Program Notes

Olympus Piano Trio

  • Maurice Ravel Piano Trio in A minor
    • Modéré 9:00
    • Pantoum. Assez vite 4:30
  • Dmitri Shostakovich Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor, Op. 67
    • Largo 5:45
    • Allegretto 10:30
  • Felix Mendelssohn Piano Trio No. 2 in C minor, Op. 66
    • Scherzo. Molto Allegro quasi Presto 4:00
    • Finale. Allegro appassionato 8:00

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) was born in the Basque town of Ciboure, France. His Piano Trio in A minor (1914) was composed while at a Basque arts commune near his home in France, a mere 20 kilometers north of France’s border with Spain. The trio was completed in haste before Ravel enlisted in the military in 1915 during the onset of the First World War. His time during the war was spent as a lorry driver for the Thirteenth Artillery Regiment. He was 40 years old.

Ravel’s Piano Trio reflects his Basque heritage. The work seamlessly blends Basque flavor into a genre steeped in German roots. Ravel’s trio builds upon the traditional four-movement sonata form structure developed by the German masters; first a sonata allegro, then a scherzo and slow movement, culminating in a finale allegro movement. The blending of various forms and styles is immediately apparent in the first movement. The opening rhythmic structure is based on a Basque dance, the zortziko. The trio’s second movement Pantoum is inspired by the pantun, a Malaysian poetic form. Ravel’s use of exotic elements is emblematic of a musical trend brought on by the technological revolution which preceded World War I; Globalization spurred a cross pollination of musical styles, sounds and forms previously unknown to European cultures. The last movement of Ravel’s trio combines the use of trills, harmonics, unique registration, and various virtuosic and extended techniques in novel ways, thereby revolutionizing the potential sound world and color palette of the piano trio.

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) also uses ingenious instrumentation, harmonics, mutes and virtuosic techniques; however, the musical profile, in contrast to Ravel’s pre-WWI trio, is a direct reflection of some the world’s darkest eras: WW2. Shostakovich dedicated his second Piano Trio in E minor (1944) to his friend who died in Russia during the chaos of WW2, Ivan Sollertinsky.

With the first movement, Shostakovich creates an ethos cold as ice. The bombastic scherzo is irresistibly folk-like; complete with sarcastic, drunken moments of bliss, ending in a roar. The ensuing slow movement opens with massive chords whose severe dissonance elicits misery; continuing, without pause into the final movement, where Shostakovich uses a theme in klezmer style. The theme morphs into a dance of death, ultimately recapitulating other tragic themes from earlier in the piece. The work’s final E major strummed chords are supremely ambiguous, leaving the listener suspended between divinity and damnation.  Shostakovich’s ability to depict his environment of a war torn Russia, communist oppression, and his own personal fear of death, all contribute to the epic severity portrayed in this unique piano trio.

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) was a child prodigy comparable to Mozart. His compositional style pays homage to the counterpoint, sacred settings and chorales of Bach, the classicism of Mozart and Haydn, the humanism and scope of Beethoven. It was out of Beethoven’s shadow and triumphs of the human spirit that Mendelssohn would emerge; Beethoven died when Mendelssohn was 18, and by this time Mendelssohn had already found his own voice, having written A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream. The Piano Trio in C minor contains an elfin scherzo reminiscent of the scherzo from A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream. The piano trio’s finale begins in a fit of passion, later triumphantly juxtaposing that sentiment with the “Old 100th” Protestant hymn tune written in the year 1551. Mendelssohn stood on the shoulders of giants, elevating classical traditions to new romantic heights with a variety of synthesized compositional styles.  Generations of composers, including Ravel and Shostakovich with their trios, continue to pay homage to the early masters who developed and standardized the four movement sonata form, using it as a platform to express an infinite number of human emotions.

Rolston String Quartet

  • String Quartet No. 3 by B. Bartok
    • Prima parte: Moderato
    • Seconda parte: Allegro
    • Recapitulazione della prima parte: Moderato
    • Coda: Allegro molto
  • String Quartet Op. 59, No. 2, by L. Beethoven
    •  Allegro
    • Molto adagio (Si tratta questo pezzo con molto di sentimento)
    • Allegretto (second section “Maggiore – Theme russe”)
    • Finale: Presto

Béla Bartók (1881-1945)

String Quartet No. 3, Sz. 85 (1927)

Written and dedicated to the Musical Society Fund of Philadelphia for their International Competition (where it shared first prize with a quartet by Alfredo Casella), Bartók’s Third Quartet represents his most extreme foray into the synthesis of traditional classical music with folk themes and idioms. Of his six works written for the medium, it is the shortest and most compact thematically and structurally, divided into four parts but performed without pause.

Bartók’s legacy as an ethnomusicologist and contributions to maintaining the Hungarian folk tradition is no more apparent than in this work; additionally, its use of extended techniques such as muted passages, sul ponticello, glissando, and col legno expanded the repertory of sounds, colors, and characters possible within the instrumentation. Simultaneously, baroque and classical devices such as augmentation, fugues, inversion, and stretto highlighted Bartók’s comprehension and respect for his predecessors.

The “Prima parte” opens with a parlando-like melody in the first violin held atop a striking dissonant chord built around C sharp. While the overall mood of the movement is stark, there is a crystalline clarity to the textures and themes, a quality never lost as Bartók develops and expands upon them. Of particular note is a theme featuring glissandi that becomes a central motivic device which Bartók constantly revisits in the subsequent parts that follow. The “Seconda parte” is a folksy, unrestrained dance, featuring many of the extended techniques mentioned above. Eventually, a scherzando-like, fugal passage is brought to a screeching halt by battling glissandos and double-stopped chords, from which emerges the recapitulation of the opening theme, this time, even more bleak and isolated than before. The glissandi also make a reappearance, though this time, it is as if they are full of uncertainty and doubt. A swirling coda that begins dartingly in the shadows suddenly erupts into more of the dance-like material from the “Seconda parte”, featuring even denser textures and contrapuntal writing. Wide-ranging chords abruptly and explosively end the piece.

Written by Jonathan Lo

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827)

String Quartet No. 8 in E minor, Op. 59 No. 2

Beethoven’s String Quartet Op. 59, No. 2, is an undisputed romantic masterpiece. Highly characteristic of Beethoven’s middle period, the work is intricate and unusual. As one of the “Razumovsky” quartets, the piece includes a Russian theme song – a requirement of Beethoven at the behest of the Russian ambassador in Vienna, Count Andreas Razumovsky, who commissioned the works.

Set in E minor, the first movement is quite severe, and contains an inner rhythmic energy and anxiety that rarely bubbles over. Despite the music happening very quickly, Beethoven explores complex motivic development throughout. The stunning slow movement is given the directions “Si tratta questo pezzo con molto di sentimento” (“This piece is to be played with great sentiment”) and is said to have been written in a single starry night. At once peaceful and wondering, it seems to be a very cosmic reflection on Beethoven’s part of his own humanity and place within the universe. The cello and violin at times employ a bow technique that imitates Bebung, a type of vibrato that is possible to execute on the clavichord.

The third movement shares an inner rhythmic excitement with the first movement, and sits somewhere between a feel of one beat per measure and three beats per measure. The trio section features the required “Theme russe” (“Russian theme”), here set as a jaunty, somewhat comical dance. The form of the third movement is highly unusual. A typical dance movement will have the form ABA, yet Beethoven writes specifically that the form here should be ABABA. It is very odd to play the trio a second time – one wonders if this was due to the prominence of the “Theme russe” in the trio or simply because Beethoven preferred it this way. The quartet closes with a rollicking Finale that begins in C Major. This movement again possesses an incredible rhythmic intensity. The development features furious fugal writing and the movement’s rhythmic energy never surrenders, driving headfirst into an explosive and dramatic finish.

Written by Jeff Dyrda