Verona Quartet: Jonathan Ong, Abigail Rojansky, Dorothy Ro, Jonathan Dormand
Verona Quartet: Jonathan Ong, Abigail Rojansky, Dorothy Ro, Jonathan Dormand

With live appearance limitations forced by the pandemic, the group has conceded to digital concerts until recently.

Abigail Rojansky, violist with the Verona Quartet, began her musical leanings at a young age after coming to an agreement with her mom. Her professional accomplishments advanced as she came to agreements with others.

Although Rojansky wanted to concentrate on ballet classes, her mom wanted her to enroll in violin lessons, following the avocation of the youngster’s grandfather. The agreement had Rojansky studying both dance and violin, but over time, the ballet stopped, and a preference for viola took hold. 

When the Verona Quartet formed some eight years ago — with violinists Jonathan Ong and Dorothy Ro as well as cellist Jonathan Dormand — there would be brainstorming discussions to come to agreements about what to play at concerts that have toured them to four continents.

With live appearance limitations forced by the pandemic, the group has conceded to digital concerts until recently. Masked and vaccinated, the quartet happily makes its second round of stage recitals for the Chamber Music Society of Detroit (CMSD) as the evening presentation also livestreams.

Two Concerts

“We’re delighted to be performing three pieces that we really love,” said Rojansky, whose group will be onstage starting at 5 p.m. Saturday, May 15, at the Seligman Performing Arts Center in Beverly Hills and repeated digitally at 8 p.m.

“The first is a contemporary piece (‘Quartet’) by Reena Esmail, who has combined Indian classical music with Western classical tradition in a magical way. A second piece is the Richard Strauss ‘Sextet,’ and for that, we will be joined by Nicholas Mariscal on cello and Jordan Bak on viola; the piece comes from the Capriccio opera by Strauss. The third piece is the Dvorak ‘American Quartet.’ 

“The concert is strung from a broad range of our repertoire and a variety of generations and styles. The first two pieces pay reference and homage to folk cultures beyond that of the Western classical tradition. Dvorak is referencing late 19th century sounds and folk music he was hearing in America.”

Abigail Rojansky
Abigail Rojansky

Verona, on the faculty of Oberlin College and Conservatory of Music in Ohio, formed when members were advanced students at Indiana University. Their professional combination was encouraged by the Pacifica Quartet, which has been featured by the CMSD.

“I went to a music day school in the San Francisco Bay area, where the violin students played viola,” Rojansky, 31, recalled. 

“I ended up playing both fairly seriously until I decided to focus on the viola at Oberlin, where I did my undergraduate degree.

“After Indiana, we went [on faculty] to the Julliard School as a quartet and then to the New England Conservatory as a quartet. We’ve been so fortunate to have performed at places like Carnegie Hall in New York and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.”

Diverse Cultures

Verona, whose recognition has included the 2020 Chamber Music America’s Cleveland Quartet Award, performs music by many Jewish composers. 

“I’ve been doing a lot of research, especially on Jewish composers who have been lost in history, and I’ve been struck by the incredible music that is out there and the prominent part of that music in classical repertoire,” said Rojansky, who had her bat mitzvah in California and has visited relatives in Israel. 

“When it was an anniversary of Mieczyslaw Weinberg, a very famous and beloved Jewish composer, we performed Weinberg works within that season. 

“We love and play a lot of Shostakovich, who was an advocate of Weinberg.”

With an interest in mixing the artistry of different cultures, Verona worked with Chamber Music Abu Dhabi to appear before audiences in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). One requested project involved a collaboration with local poets. 

“Poetry is a very important part of the artistic culture in the UAE,” Rojansky explained. 

“Their poets are celebrities, kind of like rock stars, and we suggested some Western classical music. The poets listened and wrote poems in Arabic — we got English translations — based on this music they had never heard. Without the background, they got the essence.”

Verona, which has performed in Kalamazoo and participated in a music competition at the University of Michigan, has continuing goals that involve diversity in composers, timelines, styles and cultural origins with a connecting story. 

They chose the name Verona because of its prominence in the storylines of William Shakespeare.

Details

The Verona Quartet presents a concert at 5 p.m. Saturday, May 15, at the Seligman Performing Arts Center, 22305 W. 13 Mile, Beverly Hills. The performance will be accessible remotely at 8 p.m. $10-$30 live/pay-what-you can remotely  (available for one week on demand at cameramusic.org). (313) 335-3350. cmsdetroit.org