A person attending a string quartet expects to see four chairs—two for the violins, one each for the viola and cello. According to the Esterhàzy Quartet, though, there is also a fifth chair. This chair, an invisible but felt presence, is called into being by the synergy of the sounds of four instruments and the efforts of four musicians whose skill, dedication, and connectedness make the music possible. The Esterhàzy Quartet, the University of Missouri’s String Quartet-In-Residence brings this “composite voice” alive in their performing and teaching on the Mizzou campus and across the globe.
Between teaching viola individually and in groups, directing the Missouri String Project, and playing professionally with several internationally renowned chamber music groups, music professor Leslie Perna keeps very busy. Yet you have the distinct impression in listening to her talk that all of her work is thoroughly enjoyable.
Perna found herself drawn to viola performance, and especially chamber music, because of the collaborative and democratic nature of the music-making process.
The Esterhàzy Quartet, the string quartet with whom Perna performs chamber music, focuses particularly on work from contemporary living composers. The Esterhàzy Quartet established residency at the Berklee College of Music in Boston six years ago, where they experience the magic of the collaborative process while working with the best student composers.
Watch Perna in a short viola performance.