Oakland, California

The Temescal String Quartet: A Shared Love

Each performance by the Temescal Quartet reflects a shared love of chamber music so profound that playing together has become a necessity. Formed in 2004 by four musicians who also play in the San Francisco Opera and San Francisco Ballet Orchestras, the quartet answers a need for a depth of creative expression rarely available in the orchestral setting.

The quartet has chosen the name "Temescal" (a ritual bath house or sweat lodge found in pre-Hispanic central and southern Mexico) to reflect the physical and spiritual renewal its members feel each time they play together. Thrilled to have found each other, and to discover a common voice emerging from their different instruments, their playing reflects a commitment to building and nurturing an ensemble voice.

Founding violinist Katherine (Katie) Button notes that while she and the others enjoy playing in orchestras, "When you're playing in a small ensemble, you know your partners as people, and your personalities come out in the music." Founding violist Jonna Hervig agrees, noting, "We're so sympathetic to each other that it's as if we know each other on a deeper level than in almost any other relationship in our lives."

Cellist Ruth Lane underscores the dividends of forming such a close-knit ensemble. "I'm enlivened by playing together," she says, "and my heart and mind feel energized. Now that I've managed to find three people of like mind who gel very well together, it brings me and our audiences so much joy."

One reason that the quartet's performances are so moving is because its members' relationships date back many years. Jonna has known founding violinist Barbara Riccardi the longest; at the respective ages of 19 and 20, they played quartets together in a student seminar with the Guarneri Quartet. There they discovered that they shared a common musical language. They subsequently roomed together in New York City, and moved to the Bay Area a year apart.

Jonna, Barbara and Ruth first played quartets together over two decades ago, and have maintained their friendship ever since. Most recently, not long after the start of the 21st century, Barbara met Katie while sharing a stand in the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra. Finding it easy to play together, their friendship blossomed with their musical partnership.

Given their shared history, and their admiration for each other's playing, it was only a matter of time until the four women found the means to affirm their shared love of chamber music in the Temescal Quartet.

Although the quartet members tend to shy away from mystical language, they acknowledge that in the chamber setting, where they feel most free to express their individual voices, a group voice paradoxically emerges that seems to speak through them.

"Something takes over that is greater than the four of us," says Barbara.

"Sometimes when we're playing at our best, there's no disconnect between the concept and its execution," affirms Katie. "It's as if we've taken our name of spiritual renewal to heart."