This Saturday, we profile two medalists in the very recent Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition. This year, the competition pivoted to a virtual format due to the coronavirus pandemic, and ensembles were judged on their audition recordings. Of the twelve Chicago-area ensembles in the quarter-finals, two won medals. We hear from those two, as well as The Bone Rangers, winners of the Junior Division Brass Ensemble Prize.
Purple Hippopotami Flute Quartet
The Purple Hippopotami is the Honors Flute Quartet at the Merit School of Music, made up of four Chicagoans: Katherine Chen, 15; Natalia Kozintseva, 17; Emma Krause, 18; and Nina Touboul, 17. Their coach is Elizabeth Ko, and their chamber music experience is part of Merit’s Tuition Free Conservatory program. This group won the Bronze Medal in the Junior Wind Division of the 2020 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, and recently appeared on NPR in From the Top‘s “Blanket Fort” episode.
The group enjoys playing repertoire of many styles, ranging from the French staples of flute quartet literature, to orchestral transcriptions, to contemporary works that call for extended techniques. The group is multilingual – Nina speaks French, Natasha speaks Russian, Kathy speaks Mandarin, and all four speak a tiny bit of Spanish – but they describe music as their language of choice to explore the many emotions of the human experience.
The group’s name comes from a past iteration of the Merit School flute quartet: several years ago, some performers were grappling with septuplets, or a beat subdivided into seven. They were used to saying “hippopotamus” for quintuplets, so after adding a two-syllable adjective, the “Purple Hippopotami” came to be the quartet’s name.
Dasani String Quartet
The Dasani String Quartet is Isabella Brown, 17, violin; Katya Moeller, 16, violin; Zechary Mo, 18, viola; and Brandon Cheng, 17, cello. All four are Merit Scholarship Fellows at the Music Institute of Chicago Academy, where they are coached collectively by Mathias Tacke. They won the Silver Medal in the Junior String Division of the 2020 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition.
Isabella and Katya study violin with Almita Vamos. Isabella recently appeared on Introductions performing Beethoven’s Violin concerto as the winner of the 2020 Crain-Mailing CSO Young Artist Competition. She’s set to play as a soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra next year and give her second solo recital on Introductions around that time (she first appeared in 2017). Katya was the 2019 Grand-prize winner of the ENKOR International Violin Competition, was a finalist at both the Ysaÿe International Violin Competition in Belgium and the National MTNA Competition.
Zechary studies with Roland Vamos and Davis King. He was a semifinalist in the 2019 Klein International String Competition, and has won several concerto competitions which led him to solo with orchestras in Illinois and Wisconsin. He appeared on Introductions last year with a past chamber ensemble, the Nova String Quartet. Brandon is Principal Cellist of the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra and studies with Richard Hirschl. He recently co-created The Swan Project, featured two weeks ago on Introductions.