Castalian String Quartet Stephen HoughPiano

Castalian String Quartet with Stephen Hough
Sini Simonen, violin* Daniel Roberts, violins Ruth Gibson, viola* Steffan Morris, cello

Tuesday, March 5, 2024 |  7:30pm

Herbst TheatreVenue Information


* Natalie Loughran has graciously agreed to perform with the Castalian Quartet during Ruth Gibson’s maternity leave.

About This Performance

An inspired collaboration between one of the most distinctive pianists in the world and a dynamic string quartet that’s drawing praise from critics and audiences worldwide. Together, they explore cherished chamber works by Haydn and Brahms, along with one of Hough’s own compositions.

Musical America recently marveled at Stephen Hough’s “tightly fashioned programs…melodic jewels that twinkle and shine with a multi-faceted brilliance.” His astonishing career can be traced over three decades of satisfying SF Performances recitals witnessing his thoughtful selection of music, emotional resonance, and a style full of joy and wit.

“The Castalian String Quartet is a feisty group, with a real personality and strong interpretative ideas” (The Guardian). BBC Music Magazine hails the Quartet’s “deep contemplation and vivid spontaneity…The quartet’s [playing] is nothing short of a revelation in its lucidity of line and sheer beauty of sound.”



HAYDN: String Quartet in A Major, Op. 20, No. 6
HOUGH: String Quartet No. 1
BRAHMS: Quintet for Piano and Strings in F Minor, Op. 34

Performance Sponsors

Bruce and Carolyn Lowenthal
Robert and Ruth Dell

Artist Information

Performer Biography

Since its formation in 2011, the London-based Castalian Quartet has distinguished itself as one of the most dynamic, sophisticated young string quartets performing today. They are an Artist in Residence at the Wigmore Hall in London and are the inaugural Hans Keller String Quartet in Residence at the Oxford University Faculty of Music. They are also the recipient of the Royal Philharmonic Society’s 2019 Young Artists Award.

The Castalian Quartet will tour North America in the 2023–24 season with performances in Dallas, San Francisco, Louisville, Chicago, Houston, and many other cities. Another highlight will be their collaboration with pianist Stephen Hough, who will join them for concerts in Costa Mesa, Carmel and Napa, CA; New York, NY; Rockport, MA; and Washington, D.C.

The Quartet works with many living composers, including recent premieres of works by Mark-Anthony Turnage, Charlotte Bray, and Edmund Finnis. They have also established a strong presence abroad, with performances of the complete Haydn Op.76 Quartets at Wigmore Hall; at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Berlin Philharmonic, Hamburg Elbphilharmonie, Paris Philharmonie, Vienna Konzerthaus, Montreal’s Salle Bourgie, Carnegie Hall, the Spoleto USA Festival, and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. They have played at the Heidelberger Frühling, East Neuk, Kuhmo, Edinburgh, Lockenhaus, and Banff International Festivals. Further afield, they undertook tours of China and Colombia.

In spring 2022, the Castalian Quartet released its first recording, Between Two Worlds (Delphian), featuring works by Thomas Adès, Beethoven, and first violinist Sini Simonen’s own arrangements of early works by Orlando de Lassus and John Dowland.

The Castalian Quartet studied with Oliver Wille (Kuss Quartet) at the Hannover University of Music, Drama and Media, graduating with a Master’s degree. In addition to the above, awards include Third Prize at the 2016 Banff Quartet Competition and First Prize at the 2015 Lyon Chamber Music Competition. The Quartet was selected by Young Classical Artists Trust (YCAT) in 2016. They have received coaching from Simon Rowland-Jones, David Waterman and Isabel Charisius.

Their name is derived from the Castalian Spring in the ancient city of Delphi. According to Greek mythology, the nymph Castalia transformed herself into a fountain to evade Apollo’s pursuit, thus creating a source of poetic inspiration for all who drink from her waters.

American violinist Sean Lee is one of few violinists who dare to perform the complete 24 Caprices of Niccolò Paganini in concert. A recipient of Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Career Grant, Lee has captured the attention of audiences worldwide, with performances described by the New York Times as “breathtakingly beautiful”.

Lee’s ongoing educational YouTube series, Paganini POV, utilizes modern technology to share a unique perspective on violin playing. In January 2022, Lee and pianist Peter Dugan released selections from Niccolò Paganini’s 24 Caprices as arranged by Robert Schumann, as an EP and video series titled Paganini X Schumann: 9 Caprices, after giving the first performance of the complete 24 Caprices in the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s 52-year history.

As a soloist, Lee has performed with orchestras including the San Francisco Symphony, Utah Symphony, and Jerusalem Symphony, and as a recitalist at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and Vienna’s Konzerthaus. An avid chamber musician as well, Lee performs with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, both at Lincoln Center as well as on tour.

Born in Los Angeles, Lee studied in Southern California with Robert Lipsett of the Colburn Conservatory, and with violin legend Ruggiero Ricci. Lee then studied at the Juilliard School with the internationally acclaimed Itzhak Perlman. As an educator, Lee has taught for over a decade at both the Perlman Music Program and the Pre-College Division of The Juilliard School. Lee performs on violins made by Samuel Zygmuntowicz in 1995 and David Bague in 1999, with bows made circa 1890 by Joseph Arthur Vigneron and circa 1910 by W. E. Hill & Sons. Lee currently resides in the Capital Region of New York, and enjoys exploring photography, chess, and electronic sound synthesis in his free time.

Twenty-five year old American violist Natalie Loughran is quickly establishing herself as one of the most versatile young artists of our time. Natalie was awarded First Prize at the 2021 Primrose International Viola Competition, along with the Audience Award, as well as the BIPOC Composer Prize for her arrangement and performance of William Grant Still’s Mother and Child. She has also appeared as a finalist for the 2020 Young Concert Artist Auditions, and was awarded a special prize for her performance of the Bowen Viola Sonata in C Minor at the Tertis International Viola Competition. Natalie has also been awarded with the William Schuman prize for her outstanding leadership and achievement in music, from the Juilliard School.

A former member of the Kila Quartet, Natalie is a sensitive and passionate chamber musician. She has appeared on WQXR’s series, Midday Masterpieces, and has performed extensively at Marlboro, Yellow Barn, The Perlman Music Program Chamber Workshop, Robert Mann’s String Quartet Institute, and Kronberg’s Chamber Music Connects the World. Natalie has collaborated with renowned musicians across the United States and Europe, including The Doric Quartet, Itzhak Perlman, Gidon Kremer, Mitsuko Uchida, Christian Tetzlaff, Tabea Zimmermann, and Nobuko Imai.

Natalie earned her B.M. and M.M. in Viola Performance at The Juilliard School, under the tutelage of Roger Tapping, Misha Amory, and Hsin-Yun Huang, where she was a proud recipient of the Kovner Fellowship. Natalie is currently pursuing her professional studies diploma at the Kronberg Academy with Tabea Zimmermann.

Named by The Economist as one of Twenty Living Polymaths, Sir Stephen Hough combines a distinguished career and a longstanding international following as a pianist with those of composer and writer. The first classical pianist to be awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the New Year Honors 2014 and was awarded a Knighthood for Services to Music in the Queen’s Birthday honors 2022.

In the 2022–23 season Hough performs over 90 concerts across five continents. Recent and upcoming orchestral highlights include return appearances with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, Orchestre National de Fance, Vienna Symphony, London Philharmonic, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and the Finnish Radio, as well as with the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center, the St. Louis, Cincinnati, Detroit and Houston symphonies, and the New York Philharmonic.

Mr. Hough is a regular guest at festivals such as Salzburg, Mostly Mozart, Edinburgh, La Roque-d’Atheron, Aldeburgh and the BBC Proms, where he has made 29 appearances. In June 2020, he returned to London’s Wigmore Hall to give the UK’s first live classical music concert in a major venue since the nationwide lockdown earlier that year. Recent and upcoming recital highlights include a return to London’s Royal Festival Hall (International Piano Series) and performances at Caramoor and in Paris Sydney, Atlanta, Toronto, Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall and New York City’s 92nd Street Y.

Mr. Hough’s extensive discography of over 60 CDs on the Hyperion label has garnered international awards including the Diapason d’Or de l’Année, several Grammy© nominations, and eight Gramophone Awards, including Record of the Year and the Gold Disc. Recent releases include the complete piano concertos of Beethoven with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra under Hannu Lintu; Brahms: The Final Piano Pieces; the complete Chopin Nocturnes; a Schumann recital; and Schubert Sonatas. His recording of Mompou’s Musica callada was released in early 2023.

As a composer, Stephen Hough has written for orchestra, choir, chamber ensemble and solo piano. Recent commissions include composing the commissioned work for the 2022 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, as piece that was performed by all 30 competitors, and his String Quartet No. 1 Les Six Recontres commissioned by the Takacs Quartet.

As a writer, Mr. Hough’s memoir Enough: Scenes from Childhood, is being published in 2023. It follows his collection of essays Rough Ideas: Reflections on Music and More, which won a 2020 Royal Philharmonic Society Award and was named one of the Financial Times’ Book of the Year 2019. Hough’s first novel, The Final Retreat, was published by Sylph Editions in 2018. He has also been published by the New York Times and in London in The Telegraph, The Times, The Guardian and the Evening Standard. For seven years he wrote more than six hundred articles for his blog in The Telegraph, which became one of the most popular and influential forums for cultural discussion.

Stephen Hough resides in London and is an Honorary Member of the Royal Philharmonic Society, a Visiting Professor at the Royal Academy of Music and at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University, holds the International Chair of Piano Studies at the Royal Northern College of Music, and is on the faculty of The Juilliard School in New York.

Artist Videos

Castalian String Quartet Plays Quartet in D Minor, Op. 76, No. 2—I. Allegro by Haydn

Stephen Hough Plays Méditation (Ave Maria) by Bach/Gounod/Hough