Breaking: US string quartet loses two members

Breaking: US string quartet loses two members


norman lebrecht

July 12, 2016

The Jack Quartet has come apart, it was announced today.

After 11 years together, founding violinist Ari Streisfeld had landed an assistant professorship in South Carolina and  cellist Kevin McFarland has settled in Denver and wants to compose more.

The pair will be replaced by violinist Austin Wulliman and cellist Jay Campbell.

But it won’t be the same jack-in-a-box string quartet.


UPDATE: And there’s a knock-on effect. Austin is leaving the Spektral Quartet. They’re hiring.


  • A musician says:

    What a shame, Norman, that in reporting on a simple news event in the music world you feel compelled to trivialize this ensemble and make it seem as if they’ve collapsed. The JACK Quartet hasn’t at all ‘come apart.’ They’ve simply done what many other groups have — announced a personnel change. The two departing members leaving for other pastures have happily been replaced by equally capable artists who will see the quartet through the next chapter in its lustrous career, notwithstanding your jack-in-the-box comment, whatever it’s supposed to mean.

    • pooroperaman says:

      ‘What a shame, Norman, that in reporting on a simple news event in the music world you feel compelled to trivialize this ensemble’

      Norman’s modus operandi. Haven’t you noticed it before?

    • Steven Holloway says:

      So very true. And re the mysterious jack-in-a-box reference, I’ve been struck by the increase in incomprehensible sentences — passim in the last four posts. I think we have here a one-man assembly line, and the line is moving too fast for the crafting of decent sentences and even the most basic fact-checking. I say this in the way of being helpful, for too much sloppiness can come to be viewed as an insult to readers. The saving grace is that the commenters, with certain well-known exceptions, generally offer information and ideas worth the reading.

  • boringfileclerk says:

    Eh, I’ve always viewed them as the poor man’s Arditti Quartet. They took their PR image from the Kronos, and most of their repertoire from the Arditti. Never liked much of what they did. High on concept, low and delivering the goods. I’m amazed they lasted so long as it is.

    • John Borstlap says:

      The two leaving members seem to have had enough of the particular repertoire, given the video.

      • A musician says:

        John, your distaste for this repertoire is well-known here, and I respect that. But to sarcastically suggest these two musicians are leaving on account of the same doesn’t help at all. I happen to know them both well and they’re leaving for precisely the reasons mentioned in the media — the desire to lead different lives, but continuing in the noble pursuit of the music of today and tomorrow.

        It goes without saying that, while I wouldn’t expect anyone to necessarily like anything the JACK plays, the idea that the living repertoire they play deserves condescension flies in the face of what we know of our own musical history, for so many of the greatest creators whose works we now revere were often roundly dismissed as incomprehensible in their own times. From the quartet repertoire, one need go no further than Schuppanzigh’s famous dislike of Beethoven’s late works. So let’s not allow our personal opinions to intrude here.

        One of the most important ensembles committed to contemporary music is undergoing a transition and that’s the end of it — there’s no judgment needed from any of us.

        • John Borstlap says:

          True, I as merely ironic about mr X. It is very courageous to inflict such works on a quartet audience, and that is not a matter of taste but of insight.

          That the composition of an ensemble changes over time is, of course, perfectly natural, and does not inevitably mean its character is changed or diminished. And an explorative programme strategy is to wholeheartedly applauded in a musical life where routine reigns supreme (which is easier and less time consuming than explore). If exploring means destroying audience confidence in both the art form and the musicians’ musical judgement, I do not think exploration is very productive.

          Sometimes, such changes do not work-out well like the fabulous Domus ensemble which fizzled-out when the pianist left the group to build her own career, which did not quite succeed, destroying an unique musical body.

          I wish the JACK every success they obviously deserve.

          ‘To lose one quartet member, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness.’