Friday, February 26, 2016

Vallejo Symphony to present debut performance of string quartet

(Originally published in the 2/26/16 edition)

   For its final production of the season, Vallejo Symphony will be presenting a chamber performance by New Falcon String Quartet. 
   The group is comprised of violist Raphael Gold, cellist Burke Schuchmann and violinists Joseph Gold and Dan Kristianson. On Sunday, March 6, the quartet will be performing their debut gig together, but Kristianson says all four members are accomplished musicians and he and Schuchmann had worked together previously. 
   “We’ve given concerts in Mendocino at the arts center,” he said. 
   Schuchmann was principal cellist and soloist with the Salzburg Solisten in Austria, and has been principal cellist and soloist with the Sacramento Symphony and Mendocino Music Festival. 
   Joseph is a graduate of the University of Southern California, where he studied under legendary violinist Jascha Heifetz. Joseph has performed throughout the Bay Area and was the subject of the 2011 documentary “Gold Violin: Bow of Death,” which was an Official Selection for the Mill Valley Film Festival that year.
   Joseph’s son, Rafael, has played in several orchestras and chamber groups throughout the Bay Area and has performed in international music festivals in Mexico, Spain, Nicaragua and beyond. 
   Finally, Kristianson has been performing with the Vallejo Symphony for 14 years as assistant principal second violinist, and has been a member of a group called Symphony Orchestra of Northern California which has performed in venues in Fairfield and Napa. Additionally, he received his music degree from Yale University and studied in Japan under Shinichi Suzuki, founder of the Suzuki method, which posits that musicians learn from their surrounding environments. He has also been the assistant principal second violinist for the North State Symphony of Chico and Redding for 20 years and was the gust principal second violinist last season for Symphony Napa Valley and Solano Symphony. 
   Kristianson says the diversity of talents among the group often comes into friendly conflict.
   “The best and the worst thing is that we are all highly opinionated,” he said. “We have strong musical opinions, and there’s a wealth of different musical ideas that are generally quite well-founded and well-grounded, but then we have to duke it out in rehearsal to see the way they’re presented when they’re actually performed.”
   Nonetheless, the members of New Falcon String Quartet enjoy each other’s company, especially when the senior members share stories. 
   “Burke and Joe are loads of fun to work with because they are filled with literally hundreds of thousands of anecdotes about musical performances and famous musicians they’ve collaborated with,” Kristianson said. “We break the tension with a story and probably talk a little more often than we ought to in rehearsal.” 
   The quartet will be performing three orchestral pieces from three different eras of symphonic music. The evening will begin with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Divertimento in No. 3,” which Kristianson says was unanimously chosen by the group as the introductory piece.
   “It’s a very optimistic and forward-moving piece, and it’s a great piece to introduce yourself to an audience,” he said. “You don’t want to start off with anything that’s too tragic or too wistful.”
   The group will continue with Felix Mendelssohn’s “String Quartet in E Minor,” which Kristianson described as a good middle piece due to it being performed in E minor— a step above what has been cited as “the saddest of all keys.”
   “It’s a little bit more dramatic in nature,” he said. 
   The evening will conclude with Antonin Dvorak’s “American” quartet.
   “Of all the great European composers, (Dvorak) was the one most adopted by American styles,” Kristianson said. “It’s great European music, but it has some great flavor of the United States.”
   “He had studied the spirituals and folk music, and you can hear it in his composition,” he added. 
   Kristianson believes the three pieces will be strong showcases of three different musical periods, with Mozart representing the classical era, Dvorak representing the Romantic era and Mendelssohn representing a bridge between the two. Additionally, he feels the audience will be treated to great music.
   “You will hear some of the finest string playing you’ll have heard in Vallejo in years,” he said. “You don’t often get a chance to hear musicians of the caliber.”
   New Falcon String Quartet’s concert will begin at 4 p.m., Sunday, March 6, at the First Presbyterian Church in Vallejo, located at 1350 Amador St. Tickets are $10 for students 13 and older, and $20 for adults. They can be purchased at For more information, visit


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