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Kepler Quartet

Milwaukee, WI   

The four string instrumentalists hired in 2002 by Milwaukee’s new music ensemble, Present Music—Sharan Leventhal and Eric Segnitz, violins, Brek Renzelman, viola, and Karl Lavine, cello—gave the world premiere performance of String Quartet No. 10 to an audience assembled inside the recently opened main hall of architect Santiago Calatrava’s dynamic lakefront Milwaukee Art Museum addition, on April 20th of that year. Audience and critical reception was overwhelmingly positive, inspiring the musicians to incorporate independently as the ensemble Kepler Quartet and to embark upon a multi-disc recording project adhering as closely as possible to the esthetic ideals Ben Johnston conveyed to the group while coaching them in preparation for the No. 10 premiere. With a single grant from the Copland Fund for Music in 2003, the four musicians began translating Ben’s complex notational system into usable format and to peel apart the dense harmonic structure of his string quartets so as to understand and meet the interpretive challenges. The release of Kepler Quartet’s debut CD of String Quartets Nos. 2, 3, 4 & 9 (Cat. No. 80637) in January 2006 marks the first that these works have been heard as written. In summer 2006, Ben and his (late) wife, Betty, moved to Wisconsin, which allowed Kepler Quartet easier access to the composer for consultations. Producer, editor and second violinist Segnitz has charged himself with seeing this project to completion. Violist Renzelman, who also lives in Milwaukee, has helped with management. Violinist Leventhal and cellist Lavine are maintaining separate careers in Boston and Madison, Wisconsin, respectively.