The DaPonte String Quartet

Mission

The mission of the DaPonte String Quartet is to connect audiences to composers and their influences by bringing to life the human context of each score’s creation. They achieve this mission through:

  • Performance: Year-round live performances, educational programs, and outreach efforts that portray the world of chamber music compositions.
  • Research: Musical interpretations, program notes, and pre-concert lectures informed by rigorous research and preparation.
  • Discussion: Performance discussions evoking the social, historical and philosophical environments that influenced and inspired composers to create the music.
  • Insight: Live performances that express the intentions and zeitgeist informing each work rather than adhering to strict interpretations of a score.
  • Varied Style: Cultivation of different styles to fit different composers and compositions, rather than nurturing a “DaPonte String Quartet-style” that influences each work performed.
  • Themed Programs: Programming developed around particular themes, so pieces interact with one another to explore specific influences.
  • Education: Educational programs for youth and adult musicians that focus on the study of chamber music, its preparation and performance, through a careful consideration of the great works of string quartet literature and the circumstances of their creation.
  • Youth Access: Support for the music education of K-12, undergraduate, and graduate students by providing them with access to live performances and instruction in music history.

History

Not long after forming in Philadelphia, the DaPonte String Quartet surprised the musical world by moving to Maine where, as the New York Times noted, they create an experience akin to watching “the Boston Celtics play in the high school gym.” The move was prompted by a temporary (three-year) rural residency grant from Chamber Music America and the National Endowment for the Arts, but once the Quartet arrived in Maine, they forged an unbreakable love-bond with the state. They now play or present more than 40 times a year across Maine, in addition to touring nationally and internationally. They were recently voted “Best Musical Group” in Maine (across all music genres) by readers of Down East Magazine, and were awarded the 2016 Maine Arts Commission Fellow in Performing Arts.

The Quartet is sought after to perform and teach everywhere. They have given master classes all over the US, as well as offering free residential workshops for high school string players and in-school presentations in Maine and elsewhere. In 2019 they launched an annual week-long program for gifted music conservatory-level students: The DaPonte String Quartet Institute.

As performers, they have appeared at Carnegie Hall, been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, and toured in France, Scotland, and Canada, as well as in over twenty American states. They have broadcast on nation-wide radio and television in both the United States and Canada, received awards from the NEA, Philadelphia Musical Fund Society, Music Teachers National Association, Chamber Music America, and Maine Arts Commission. In 2017 they released their fourth CD, Pathways to Healing, produced and mastered by 11-time Grammy winner Bob Ludwig, on the Centaur Records label. Guest artists who have performed with them include Awadagin Pratt, Kate Aldrich, Gilbert Kalish, and Peter Serkin.

The Friends of DaPonte String Quartet

This group is a non-profit that was formed in 1995 with the mission of supporting the work of the DaPonte String Quartet.

Members of the Quartet

Ferdinand “Dino” Liva (Violin)

A violinist and conductor, Ferdinand “Dino” Liva comes from a musically prominent family in northeastern Pennsylvania. He began studying violin at age seven with his father, a noted conductor and teacher. Though the formal relationship required between teacher and student can often be broken by the familiarity of father and son, in this case the pair created a working rapport that, though tenuous at times, was ultimately productive. Other influential teachers included Berl Senofsky at the Peabody Conservatory, and Luis Biava at Temple University. Dino later spent four years as Assistant Professor of violin and chamber music at Wilkes University, and as conductor of the University Orchestra.

In 1991, Dino’s lifelong passion for Chamber music was ignited during the very first rehearsals of a student quartet at the home of cellist Myles Jordan. He became one of the founding members of the DaPonte String Quartet, and moved full-time to Maine in 1996. Dino remains both excited and intrigued by the moment-to-moment decision-making that a quartet must navigate as they prepare a piece of literature for performance. His quest remains the pursuit of that often elusive, yet eminently fulfilling, moment when they can say, “That’s it!”

Dino continues to conduct and teach, enriching the lives of young musicians throughout the Mid-coast Maine. He currently teaches privately, and conducts the Sea Coast Youth Orchestra, the Portland Youth Junior Orchestra, and the Sea Coast Community Orchestra. In the past, he conducted the Portland Youth Symphony Orchestra and University Orchestra. He also teaches violin and chamber music as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Southern Maine.

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Read Dino’s instrument story.

Lydia Forbes (Violin)

Originally from Cambridge, MA, Lydia remembers with great clarity a revelatory moment from her childhood: leaving her bedroom to go downstairs, she heard the sound of her sister’s violin, and paused at the top of the stairs. The familiar sound registered in a very different way that day, and Lydia knew in that moment that the sound of a violin would carry her through the rest of her life.

At age eleven, Lydia began studies with Marylou Speaker, a principal player in the Boston Symphony Orchestra. It was during recitals in her teacher’s home that she began to experience the mysterious power of interchange between artist and audience—the power of performance. She and her oldest sister, a cellist, would frequently have friends over to read chamber music all night long. It was “our life, an important part of our lives, and something we occasionally still do.” And, of course, it was a remarkable and valuable exploration of repertoire.

While in high school, Lydia studied with Dorothy Delay at the New England Conservatory in Boston. She was a member of this school’s “Scholarship Quartet,” coached by Eugene Lehner, who provided his students a direct line to the great tradition of Austro-Hungarian string technique and literature.

Lydia toured Europe as concertmaster and soloist for Ben Zander’s youth orchestra. Upon completion of her undergraduate degree at Yale, she received the Weckstrom Prize for musical performance. She played at Aspen Music Festival and the Tanglewood Music Festival where she served as concertmaster under Leonard Bernstein. After graduation, Lydia attended masterclasses in Italy and Germany before returning to New England Conservatory to work on a master’s degree. While pursuing a doctorate, she traveled to Austria with the Stony Brook Quartet to study with the Alban Berg Quartet, and she also attended the Julliard String Quartet Seminar.

She served as an Artist in Residence at the Banff School in Canada, and then received a Beebe Fund Grant to study abroad in 1994. She moved to Amsterdam to study with Vera Beths, with a stop off in France to study Baroque performance practice with Jaap Schroeder. She was drawn to Amsterdam by its culture of old and new music, and while there Lydia co-founded Het Zephyr Kwartet, a group solely devoted to new music. Lydia studied chamber music with Isaac Stern in Cologne, and embarked on a marvelous period of European and U.K. work with Ensemble L’Archibudelli, Het Schoenberg Ensemble, Sinfonietta Amsterdam, Het Blazers Ensemble, Osiris Piano Trio, I Fiamminghi, Ensemble Explorations, and Het Orkest van het Oosten in the Netherlands among others.

Lydia has recorded with some of the world’s most prominent labels, including Sony Classical, Harmonia Mundi, CNM, and for Vienna Modern Masters as soloist with the Czech Radio Philharmonic.

Lydia returned to the United States to join the DaPonte String Quartet in 2005, drawn to the group by their deep love and abiding respect for the art of quartet performance.

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Read Lydia’s instrument story.

Myles Jordan (Cello)

Growing up in Toronto, Myles Jordan worked as a child actor for CBC Television and the National Film Board of Canada. During that time, he lived across the street from Seiji Ozawa who, after leaving the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, went on to international fame in San Francisco, and later with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Fast forward to a teenage Myles, finished with acting, who chanced upon a televised concert from Boston, with his former neighbor Ozawa conducting Rostropovich playing Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 2. That remarkable broadcast was immediately followed by a cello master class with Pablo Casals. Seeing how the cello worked in the hands of two great masters, Myles concluded that the instrument would likewise work just fine in his own young hands. He soon began studying with Marcus Adeney, and sixteen being the age at which he could legally quit school, he did so in order to spend up to 14 hours a day practicing his cello.

Myles went on to train at the Banff School of Fine Arts in Alberta, the Britten-Pears School of Advanced Musical Studies in England, and at Schloss Weikersheim in Germany. In 1981, he won a Floyd S. Chalmers Foundation Award, which enabled him to study at the Juilliard School, and by 1983 he had earned two degrees there. In Philadelphia, he served as associate principal cellist of the Concerto Soloists Chamber Orchestra, completed a Doctor of Musical Arts, and founded the DaPonte String Quartet.

Myles cites Leo Weiner as his most influential teacher, although they never met; Weiner taught several of his teachers between the two world wars in Budapest. These included a period of seven years’ study with: Janós Starker, Lorand Fenyves, Gábor Mágyar, György Janzer, Eva Czako Janzer, Zoltán Székely, Eugene Lehner and György Sebök. After undertaking further chamber music studies with members of quartets as diverse as the Budapest, Guarneri, Curtis, Juilliard, Allegri, Galimir, Primrose and Paganini, Myles still remains a strong adherent of the Austro-Hungarian school, which represents a teacher-pupil line directly traceable back to Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.

His instrumental teachers have included: Janós Starker, Mstislav Rostropovich, Bernard Greenhouse, Zara Nelsova, Harvey Shapiro, Aldo Parisot, Orlando Cole and William Pleeth.

Myles’ recording of Bach Cello Suites, available worldwide on the Centaur label, demonstrate his avid use of historical research to inform his musical performances in order to remain as faithful as possible to the composer’s original intentions. His written work has been published in Strad Magazine. He has also recorded for RCA Red Seal, CBC, and Cadenza.

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Read Myles’s instrument story.

Kirsten Monke (Viola)

A native of Brunswick, Maine, Kirsten Monke was eight years old when she saw someone on television playing the violin and thought, “that looks interesting.” Her mother arranged for lessons, and Kirsten began her daily practice at home, to the dismay of the family dog, who took to hiding between the sofa and the wall. Her teacher soon discovered that the tall youngster’s large hands might be better suited to the viola, an instrument whose deeper tones were also more welcome to the dog. Though her initial focus on this instrument may have been practical, the voice of the viola has inspired and nurtured her lifelong interest in music.

Kirsten discovered chamber music in high school, and it has remained her first love. She describes the work as giving her a feeling of being so marvelously “plugged in,” so immersed in the moment, that all else fades. As a teenager, she joined the New England Conservatory Youth Philharmonic Orchestra. The group toured the Soviet Union, Romania, and Latvia, and it was in this ensemble that she first met a young violinist from Cambridge, Lydia Forbes.

After high school, Kirsten attended Indiana University School of Music, where she received both her Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees. She later became a graduate fellow at UC Santa Barbara, and was a founding member of the award-winning Anacapa String Quartet. Following a decade of touring and concertizing with this group, Kirsten settled in Santa Barbara, and served as Principal Violist of both the Santa Barbara Symphony and the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra. She has taught at UC Santa Barbara and Westmont College. Kirsten can be heard in recordings with the Anacapa Quartet and the Santa Barbara Symphony, as a soloist on a jazz CD featuring the music of Earl Stewart, and as a member of the Gove County String Quartet, a group that performs all original music.

Kirsten joined the DaPonte String Quartet in 2008, a serendipitous occurrence that brought her back to her beloved home state. Recipient of the 2016 Maine Artists Fellowship Award, Monke teaches viola and chamber music at Bowdoin College and is also a member of the faculty of Rockport’s Bay Chamber Community Music School. She has studied Middle Eastern music and enjoys a wide variety of music-making experiences.

Kirsten remains happiest, however, when involved in the intimacies of chamber music.

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Read Kirsten’s instrument story.

Accolades

  • Twice voted “Best Musical Group” in Maine (across all music genres) by readers of Down East Magazine
  • Voted by readers to the Best of the Best, Knox County, Village Soup

Recordings

Music of Beethoven and Mendelssohn: Pathways to Healing

Beethoven Quartet in A Minor, Op. 132
Mendelssohn’s Quartet No. 2 in A Minor, Op. 13.

Released in 2016
Centaur Records

Dvorak, Schubert, Webern

Dvorak, String Quartet in F Major, Op. 96 “American”
Schubert, String Quartet in A Minor, Op. 29 “Rosamunde” Webern, Langsamer Satz (1905)

Released: August, 2011
Schoolhouse Records
Available on iTunes

Ludwig van Beethoven:

String Quartet in F Major, Op. 18, no. 1
String Quartet in G Major, Op. 18, no. 2
String Quartet in C Minor, Op. 18, no. 4

Released 2000

Schulhoff, Comolli, Shostakovich

Schulhoff, String Quartet No. 1 (1924)
Gia Comolli, String Quartet No. 2
Dmitri Shostakovich, String Quartet No. 8

Released 1998

Beethoven and Wolf

Ludwig van Beethoven, String Quartet in A Major, Op. 18, no. 5 Hugo Wolf, Italian Serenade
Ludwig van Beethoven, String Quartet in Bb Major, Op. 18, no. 6

Released 1997

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