Concordia Quartet, V3 – Interview with Edward Tan, Kim Kyu Ri, Martin Peh and Lin Juan | The Flying Inkpot
The Concordia Quartet debuted in February 2020 and despite Mervin Beng’s (Chairman of re:Sound Collective) quip that it was the worst possible time for them to debut, their CV boasts an impressive list of live and livestreamed concerts, as well as being part of the cast of Wild Rice’s The Importance of Being Earnest. While their name – meaning “harmony” and also literally translating to “one heart” – remains the same, they have seen their members come and go. From the initial string quartet comprising Edward Tan, Kim Kyu Ri, Matthias Östringer and Theophilus Tan, they reconfigured themselves as a piano quartet with the departure of Theophilus Tan and Kim, and bringing of cellist Lin Juan and pianist Jonathan Shin into the fold. Come July, Concordia will greet Singaporean audiences again as a fresh new string quartet – with violist Martin Peh receiving the baton from Östringer. Aileen Tang catches up with Concordia 3.0.
The Flying Inkpot: So what’s next up for the Concordia Quartet?
Kim Kyu Ri: We’ll be at a music festival in Canada. It’s called PRISMA – Pacific Region International Summer Music Association. We’ve been invited to be the student String Quartet-in-residence. The Artist faculty is the Lafayette Quartet which has been around for more than 35 years. We’re going to perform, have lessons and things like that. After we’re back, we will be having our kind of “return concert” on 30th July.
TFI: This is like Concordia version 3.0! Martin, what has joining Concordia been like for you?
Martin Peh: I feel the pressure because Matthias did a great job together with the group. He’s handing it over to me and I must make sure that it’s well done, that I’m doing a good job. I don’t want to undo what Matthias has done for the quartet, and I want to keep up the good work that the quartet has been doing.
TFI: And that is actually a nice segue into a question for Juan, because you came in at the beginning of this calendar year and you’ve not played with them as a string quartet yet – it was with Concordia the piano quartet.
Lin Juan: Which was a very different animal! This now is really a whole other beginning of a much bigger journey, and I joined them with this in mind. I knew that the piano quartet was going to be temporary, that it was going to revert into a string quartet. So the piano quartet was kind of like a nice bonus before the main thing! As a string player, the most substantial and the most meaningful music is in a string quartet. And it’s hard to say no when you have an opportunity to do things like this.
MP: We’re trying to find a sound that would blend everybody together. Each of us had our own shortcomings, but we are all trying to compromise and be as one. The most important thing is to really take away your ego, take away whatever you know, unlearn what you have learned and then relearn to be together to be as one.
Edward Tan: We all have different experiences that we bring to the group and in a way, you want to bring the best of yourself to it.
KKR: We’re pretty much a whole new quartet because I haven’t played with Juan before. Not yet. I just came back from overseas, so this is my first time playing with Juan and Martin, and the first time Martin is playing with everybody, so essentially everyone is new and we’re trying to reconfigure ourselves.
LJ: Not many string quartets in Singapore are formed and sustained, because it’s really so difficult. And that’s a challenge I’m really looking forward to. It’s a challenge I’m very happy to grind over.
TFI: Edward, you’ve been through Concordia versions 1, 2 and 3! What do you think is the very core, vision and direction of Concordia, regardless of who comes in or whether there will be a version 5 or 6?
ET: I think it really changes with the players. Honestly, we are also still finding our identity as a quartet. We’ve got clear identities as individual musicians, but as a quartet I don’t think it’s 100% solidified yet. One of the things we wanted to do was outreach and going to schools, but that was put on hold because of COVID restrictions. So now that the restrictions have been lifted, that’s one thing that we are already exploring. I think that will be a big part of moving forward. In terms of what we’re doing, I think it really has changed very, very much with different members. So it’s evolving and will continue to evolve.
TFI: As version 2.0 – the piano quartet – Concordia played piano quartets and trios. Did that scratch an itch for other configurations of chamber music besides the string quartet?
ET: Yes, definitely! I get feedback from casual listeners who say that string quartet music is nice, but it’s very homogenous, so they really enjoyed our last concert with the piano. Part of what we do is to be always looking for opportunities to collaborate, so we’ve worked with a clarinetist, Ralph Emmanuel Lim, and performed Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet.
TFI: Are there other types of chamber music that you would really like to explore, with other guests performing with Concordia?
ET: We are trying to find our sound, like our feet as a quartet right now. But I think bringing in guests is part of how we grow. We don’t want to just hear each other!
TFI: Thinking back to my 1st interview with Concordia in January 2020 and then another together with Ralph Emmanuel Lim in October 2021, Concordia has gone through the pre-pandemic, pandemic, mid-pandemic and now, endemic phases. Do you think all that has changed audiences’ appetite for chamber music? When we couldn’t have large numbers on stage, we said that was a perfect time for chamber music to have a bit of a revival. What about now, with large orchestras making a comeback?
ET: I can tell you I was very excited to hear that large orchestras are back, and I’m sure it’s the same for everyone. But well, I hope that the audience appetite for more intimate performances has also been raised by the last couple of years. I think a lot of groups have had the opportunity to perform, and hopefully it’s also worked its way into the tastes of audiences.
TFI: Not just a temporary plug…
ET: But so we can keep doing this.
Woods, Streams & Sun-kissed Hills
Back from PRISMA – Concordia Quartet Recital Concert
Saturday, 30 July 2022 8:15pm @ WILD RICE Ngee Ann Kongsi Theatre
To celebrate their return from the PRISMA Festival in Canada, Concordia Quartet presents a picturesque programme of string quartet music presented at the festival. Be charmed by the birdsong in Haydn’s String Quartet in C major, Op. 33 No.3 (‘The Bird’); Webern’s Langsamer Satz that was inspired by a romantic hiking holiday in the mountains outside of Vienna; and Tchaikovsky’s idyllic first string quartet.
Haydn String Quartet in C major, Op.33 No.3 (‘The Bird’)
Webern Langsamer Satz (Slow Movement)
Tchaikovsky String Quartet No.1 in D major, Op.11