The innovative quartet takes on the silver screen in ‘Transcendence’  

“We’re sort of in the middle of a transcendent year,” Joshua Gindele, cellist of the Miró Quartet, says of the artistic projects the group has taken on this year.

And he couldn’t have worded it more aptly. Gindele and his quartet members—violinists Daniel Ching and William Fedkenheuer, and violist John Largess—have made a feature length film titled Transcendence.

The film, a gift from renowned instrument collector David Fulton, offers a behind the scenes look at the quartet’s recording and performing process of Franz Schubert’s String Quartet No. 15 in G Major (D.887).

“[Fulton] gifted us this film and album, and we were sort of charged with the task of figuring out how we were going to handle it,” Gindele says over the phone during a break in between offering a master class and a concert at the Bowdoin International Music Festival in Maine.

Within four hours of Fulton meeting the quartet and hearing them perform on his assortment of rare and valuable instruments, Fulton offered Miró the feature length film, Gindele says. “He was thrilled to hear us play in a style that he felt was something that had been lacking in quartet playing in the more recent years, and it was something that really spoke to him.”

As for how Schubert found himself in a starring role, Fulton is a huge fan, Gindele says.

“Ironically, the first time we ever met David at his home, we played Schubert, and the core repertoire for us [as a quartet] is the most critical,” he says of the motivation behind selecting Schubert’s String Quartet for Transcendence. “[It’s] what we feel closest to, and what we feel like we play the best, but also what we want to sort of explore the most.”

For the film, Fulton was generous enough to let the quartet members play on four of his prized instruments—Largess on the 1676 Andrea Guarneri “Count Vitale, ex Landau” viola, Fedkenheuer on the 1698 Pietro Guarneri (Peter of Mantua) “Shapiro” violin, Ching on the 1715 Antonio Stradivari “Baron Knoop” violin, and Gindele on 1713 Antonio Stradivari “Bass of Spain” cello.

The Transcendence Blu-ray, which nears a two-hour running time, offers extras on the instruments from Fulton’s collection, Schubert, and the quartet itself.

“[Schubert’s String Quartet] should be heard more,” Gindele says. “It is an extremely challenging piece to perform that people don’t play all that frequently because it’s huge. It’s an epically large complicated and challenging piece, but in the end it’s extremely rewarding for people to hear, and we want to make sure that it gets heard. We [wanted] to do something monumental and this piece seemed like it would fit that criteria.”

With the repertoire selected, the quartet had to become familiar with one more artistic hurdle—tackling a feature-length film, a process the quartet was not familiar with, Gindele admits.

“It was new—yes, it’s a feature length film, but in the end it’s an album,” he says. “We were recording an album and wanted the process to be as true to that as we could make it. We tried to ignore the cameras and be true to the recording process because we felt like our performance would come across most genuinely if we did that as opposed to if we tried to play anything up. It is a really accurate look at how we would go about recording.”

The Miró Quartet will offer Transcendence on its website (www.miroquartet.com) to download for free  beginning September 1. A $10 “Play It Forward” option is also available, which will include a download of Transcendence, four complete albums, and the option to nominate a school or music educator of his or her choosing to receive all of the downloads as well.

“We’ve been a little bit unsatisfied with how the record industry is moving forward so we decided that were going to do a primarily directly digital distribution model that we control completely,” he says, “with this project being the catalyst for it.”

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