Amphion: Born From A Mythical Story

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One day in ancient Greece, Hermes—the son of Zeus, who ruled the gods of Mount Olympus—gave his half-brother, Amphion, a lyre.

As the myth goes, the gift changed Amphion’s life, instilling in him a love for song and music. His brother, Zethus, excelled at hunting and herding. Still, the two brothers worked together, building walls around the Cadmea, the citadel of Thebes, despite their differences. But while Zethus struggled to carry his stones, Amphion’s rocks not only followed after him as he played his lyre, but also fit themselves into place.

When violist Wei-Yang Andy Lin, cellist Mihai Marcia and violinists David Southorn and Katie Hyun heard the myth for the first time in 2010, it struck a chord with them. Serendipitously, while searching for a name, they dubbed themselves the Amphion String Quartet.

“Well, we’re all Greek,” Mr. Southorn mused last week over a group interview via speaker phone while taking a lunch break in their Manhattan rehearsal space.

Considering all their last names suggest otherwise, he paused for comedic timing as they laughed.

“Ha-ha,” he punctuated, and the musicians burst into laughter again.

The quartet—which will perform on Saturday, June 15, as the kickoff concert for the 2013 Quogue Chamber Music series—began as a happy accident, they said.

“That was Katie’s doing,” Mr. Southorn reported.

At the time, the Yale senior asked her fellow classmates, Mr. Southorn and Mr. Marcia, as well as their Juilliard friend, Mr. Lin, to accompany her during her graduate recital concert in February 2009. With just five rehearsals under their belts, the musicians nailed the performance, Mr. Southorn said.

Afterward, they went their separate ways for the summer. But eventually, they came back together.

“We kept in touch and thought it would be fun to seriously enter some competitions, test the waters, see how it goes,” he said.

“And my teacher said she would kill us if we didn’t,” Ms. Hyun said.

Now living 100 blocks from one another in Manhattan, the group plays almost as many concerts as they do rehearsals, they said. They plan to bring their freshest program to the East End: “Haydn String Quartet No. 4, Op. 33;” “Schubert Quartet No. 9 in G Minor;” and “Grieg String Quartet in G Minor, Op. 27.”

“The interesting part for me, you can hear the progression of the quartet texture,” Mr. Marcia said. “The Haydn is usually the thinnest, the Grieg is just massive. It’s a lot of sounds coming from the same four people.”

“We really like to stretch the limits, in terms of what the quartet can produce,” Mr. Southorn added. “It experiments with both extremes.”

During any given concert, the Amphion String Quartet performs with a certain level of spontaneity that comes from playing without a conductor, Ms. Hyun explained. And when it works, she said, it’s great.

“People tell us we’re very energetic,” Mr. Southorn said. “They like our eye contact. Not body contact, we’re not hitting each other.”

“I think it’s easier for you to see,” Mr. Marcia said.

“We’re in it,” Ms. Hyun said.

“We don’t just sit still,” Mr. Southorn said. “We keep the level of communication as high as possible. Especially in performance, you never know what’s going to happen in the moment. Audiences, so far, love the Grieg. It’s a very rousing ending” he said, of a program members of the Amphion String Quartet hope lives up to their ambitious name.

The Quogue Chamber Music series will kick off its 2013 season with the Amphion String Quartet on Saturday, June 15, at 7:30 p.m. at the Quogue Community Hall. Following the concert, there will be a celebratory party at the home of Nancy Mullan Demirjian. Concert tickets are $40, $5 for students and $100 for both the concert and reception. For more information, visit quoguechambermusic.com.

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