Chautauqua Piano Quartet to bring ‘joyful’ display of chamber music

Berofsky, Bush, Votapek, Wang

Alyssa Bump
contributing writer

Returning for an expressive and engaging encore, the Chautauqua Piano Quartet will perform at 4:15 p.m. Saturday in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall.

The ensemble first united onstage last season for the Saturday Chautauqua Chamber Music Resident Artist Series. The group performed an atmospheric and ambient program including works by Joaquín Turina and Johannes Brahms.

“(Last season’s performance) was wonderful,” said Aaron Berofsky, violinist for Chautauqua Piano Quartet. “(Our ensemble) feels like a dream team to me.”

With Berofsky on violin, the Chautauqua Piano Quartet is composed of Kathryn Votapek on viola, Felix Wang on cello and Phillip Bush on piano.

Berofsky and Votapek are married and “have been playing together forever,” Votapek said. Berofsky, Votapek and Wang are all School of Music faculty members, while Bush is a returning guest performer. 

Bush is widely acknowledged as one of the most experienced American chamber music pianists of his generation, and the Kansas City Star referred to him as “the ideal chamber musician.” 

“Phillip is my favorite pianist, and Felix is such a beautiful cellist,” Berofsky said. “… There are people in your life that if you had a choice, that’s the person you’d play with. Philip is always top on that list. So here we are, again.”

Berofsky and Bush have been friends since Berofsky was a teenager in school, and they have since recorded all of Beethoven’s violin and piano sonatas together. Berofsky said the duo tries to “come together every chance we get” to perform in harmony.

“Bush is a monster pianist. He’s able to play anything — he’s just that good,” Votapek said. “But he’s also so incredibly sensitive and such a wonderful collaborative pianist. It’s rare to get somebody who has both of those qualities.”

This Saturday’s program will include Mozart’s Piano Quartet in E-Flat Major, K. 493 and Saint-Saëns’ Piano Quartet in B-Flat Major, Op. 41. 

“Mozart’s Piano Quartet is beautiful, but it’s also incredibly creative and unusually submersive,” Berofsky said. “He wrote it for no money; he just wrote it out of love. So there is just something very special about it.”

Composed in 1786, Mozart’s Piano Quartet is widely regarded as one of the first great piano quartet compositions. Berofsky first performed this work in college, and he considers Mozart to be “the most wunderkind musician of all time.” 

Saint-Saëns’ Piano Quartet is considered a “neglected masterpiece,” and Votapek said she believes “a lot of people will be hearing that piece for the first time.”

Contrary to Beethoven’s Piano Quartet, Berofsky has never performed the Saint-Saëns, and he said it has “so much charm, delicacy and amazing composure.” 

Saint-Saëns’ work is “a delightful piece (that is) very interesting and very well crafted,” Votapek said. She said she believes his Piano Quartet is an “audience pleaser.” 

Votapek thinks Mozart’s Piano Quartet invokes “wonder of the universe, order, humanity and joy to be alive. … When you listen to his finest masterpieces, it just makes you feel blessed to be a human being alive on this Earth.”

Saint-Saëns’ composition is “so interesting and cleverly put together,” Votapek said. She said the program as a whole is “very joyful,” but it’s also a dynamic display of euphonious elements that can be “eerie” and “mysterious” at times. 

“(I hope the audience) is able to bask in the glow of the great, great music,” Berofsky said.


The author Alyssa Bump

Alyssa Bump is a life-long Western New Yorker, but this is her first season on the grounds of Chautauqua. She is eager to recap the Interfaith Lecture Series while broadening her perspective of the human experience. Alyssa is a senior at SUNY Fredonia, majoring in journalism and public relations with a minor in professional writing. As editor-in-chief of her college newspaper, The Leader, Alyssa focuses on becoming a compelling storyteller and an innovative leader.