For violist Vlad Bogdanas, musicians in string quartets are not like work colleagues or friends, but like members of his own family.
“It’s like a relationship with your brothers or with your parents,” Bogdanas said. “Very often we say that a string quartet is like a wedding with four people. … Sometimes we fight, sometimes we laugh, sometimes we disagree, but as long as the concert goes well, as long as we look in the same direction and have the same goals, it works.”
After wrapping up the European leg of their 2022 summer tour, French quartet Quatuor Danel — composed of violinists Marc Danel and Gilles Millet, cellist Yovan Markovitch, and Bogdanas on the viola — come to North America and make their Chautauqua debut at 4 p.m. Monday, July 25, in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall. They’re performing as part of the Chautauqua Chamber Music Guest Artist Series.
Their program exhibits three Russian composers: Sergei Prokofiev, Lera Auerbach and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
“The first half is based on folk themes because that’s how Prokofiev built the second string quartet, and the Auerbach quartet is inspired by Alkonost,” Bogdanas said.
Alkonost is not a classical composer, but rather a Russian folk-metal band that embraces Slavic legends. This is evident in the band’s name, as the Alkonost is a bird with the head of a woman from Slavic folklore.
Everything culminates in Tchaikovsky’s String Quartet No. 1 in D major, Op. 11, which, as legend and Bogdanas both say, made Leo Tolstoy cry when he first heard it.
Has the piece ever made Bogdanas cry?
“Sometimes it can happen,” he said.
What happens onstage affects the audience, and Quatuor Danel prioritizes an atmosphere that encourages the emotions of the audience — something they’ve been doing since their founding in 1991.
“Sometimes you have this luck, when the stars are aligned and we are in a special mood and the music is special. I don’t know, it’s something that’s not explainable. It’s just beyond words,” Bogdanas said.
Bogdanas knows the mood is special when the audience claps after the first movement of Tchaikovsky’s String Quartet.
“Sometimes it happens because the end of the first movement is really like fireworks and sometimes people applaud,” he said. “… It’s not a usual thing that happens during concerts to clap after the first movement, but when it does, it means something.”
Bogdanas clarified that there is no pressure on Chautauquans to have this response; the quartet just looks forward to playing in front of this group for the first time.
“Of course, we like to meet old friends,” Bogdanas said, “but the music we play, we like to share it, always, with new people and new audiences.”