School of Music program traces Antonin Dvorak’s legacy in American music
Brentano String Quartet, the quartet-in-residence at the Yale School of Music, will perform a concert of American music Tuesday evening.
Courtesy of Ian Christmann
On Tuesday evening, the quartet-in-residence at the Yale School of Music gave their semesterly performance in Morse Recital Hall as part of the Oneppo Chamber Music series.
The Brentano String Quartet performed a program focused on the legacy of Czech composer Antonin Dvorak in the United States. The concert consisted of eight different pieces, a departure from traditional classical music concerts that tend to feature three or four works. Opening and closing with African American spirituals, the concert consisted of music by Antonin Dvorak, William Grant Still, George Ives, George Walker and Robert Pete Williams.
“We haven’t done anything quite like this before,” said quartet member Serena Canin. “I can hardly think of a program that we’ve played that has more variety.”
The Brentanto String Quartet was appointed as the quartet-in-residence at the School of Music in 2014. Founded at the Juilliard School in 1992, the quartet is composed of violinists Mark Steinberg and Serena Canin, violist Misha Amory and cellist Nina Lee. Before their time at Yale, they held a 15-year residency at Princeton University.
The program traced Dvorak’s incorporation of African American spirituals and “sorrow songs” to create an American identity in classical music. The only full length quartet on the program was Dvorak’s String Quartet No. 14 in A-flat Major.
“It’s less known, but what a masterpiece — it’s an absolutely beautiful work,” said Canin.
The selections by Still and Walker, both Black composers, were “spiritual in vein, sorrowful, sad, contemplative works,” said Naomi Main ’26.
These were juxtaposed with a light-hearted series of tunes from the Civil War era by Charles Ives, which the audience greeted with laughs, and a blues arrangement of “I’ve Grown So Ugly” by Robert Pete Williams.
“I loved being both inspired by new repertoire and comforted by familiar works — new or not, I thought they made each phrase sound like they were composing it for the first time, still fresh with inspiration and authentic emotion,” said Kira Wang ’26.
As the quartet-in-residence, the Brentano String Quartet members work closely with School of Music students in chamber music and give concerts every semester at Yale.
To Canin, introducing students to the joy she finds in chamber music is the most exciting part of residency.
“The conversation, the respect for ideas, the exploration — it can bring out the best in people, and it can be a situation where the whole is better than the sum of the parts,” she said. “I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and I still feel the immense excitement and the joy of playing. I hope to continue opening doors [to chamber music] for students so they can experience the same.”
The concert took place at 7:30 p.m. at Morse Recital Hall, with tickets starting at $28, or $13 for Yale students.