“Last night in Old First Church, the Old First Concerts presented what was probably one of the most ambitious approaches to chamber music programming. The performing ensemble was the Circadian String Quartet…the ensemble’s approach to interpreting Ryther’s transcription[of the Rite of Spring] was consistently impressive.”
- Steven Smolinar, Rehearsal Studio Blog
Circadian String Quartet was born in 2013 during some of the more hopeful months of the Arab Spring. Ideas and culture were colliding in unexpected ways. What if a musical concert could express the collision of culture, politics and ideas? The Four of us set out to explore this question and picked a name that evoked the circular rhythms of the day as well a mythical name that might be of Mesopotamian origin.
We chose repertoire based on what kind of story we wanted our concert to tell. When we were looking to tell the story of the relationship of Claude Debussy and Igor Stravinsky we did something bold. We knew that they had met at a dinner party and sat down together and played Stravinsky’s as yet unfinished score of the Rite of Spring and the meeting enriched both of their artistic lives. Given this, we knew that come hell or high water we were going to create our own version of the Rite of Spring and pair it with Debussy’s String Quartet. That’s the kind of Quartet we are, we will go to great lengths to realize a good idea. This good idea became our “Stravinsky Project” a concert series and dance collaboration focusing on the early Ballets of Stravinsky including the Rite of Spring, Firebird and Petroushka. Our premieres of our original transcriptions of the Rite of Spring and Firebird were premiered to critical acclaim in 2017 and 2019.
We gravitate toward bold original ideas that break boundaries or reach across cultures, that is why we love working with composers. CSQ is proud to have given world and U.S. premieres of exciting new pieces of chamber music written by Sahba Aminikia, Ben Carson, Toronto-based Noam Lemish, and British composer Ian Venables. We first performed Sahba Aminikia’s “One Day Tehran” live on air on KPFA’s radio show “Music of the World” with Joanna Manqueros in 2015. Then in 2016 we commissioned Aminikia to write a new piece for string quartet and Narrator. The result, a glowing kaleiddoscopic mixture of text by Allan Ginsburg and Hafez called “The Weight of the World” was premiered in 2017 at the Piedmont Arts center and exemplifies what we are about.
The narrator for this piece, the historian and story teller Nicolaus Holmann helped us tell the story of the events surrounding World War Two. We set his stories and poems to music and our “Chiaroscuro” project was born.
Chiaroscuro is a technique in Renaissance oil painting using contrasts of light and darkness to show depth of perspective. For us Chiaroscuro became a short musical piece or interlude composed or improvised by us, using light and dark to color and shade the larger works on our program. Chiaroscuros are now a regular part of all our concerts and help us create a narrative arc and throughline for our concerts. Some of our recent projects include our collaboration with world class santour player Hamid Taghavi, and the premiere of “Eurydice’s Defiance” David Ryther’s new Opera written especially for Kitka Soprano, Lily Storm. These projects highlight the breadth of our repertoire as we continue to expand the string quartet’s possibilities.
Praised by critics for her "irresistibly melting tone, which she can also imbue with gripping fire", Monika Gruber is a versatile violinist, appearing in concerts throughout the United States and Europe. As violinist of the Eusebius Duo she was invited to perform in Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, following the duo's success as first prize winners of the CMFONE International Chamber Music Competition. Throughout her years of study she was the recipient of numerous scholarships and awards, notably the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship, which enabled her to continue her studies in the US.
Monika received her training at 'Hochschule für Musik' in Weimar, Germany, 'Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique´ in Lyon, France, and at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where she studied with Ian Swensen. She is equally active as chamber and orchestra musician, performing lots of modern music in addition to the classical and romantic repertoire, as well as some branching out into baroque music. She has worked in public master classes with musicians such as Norbert Brainin (Amadeusquartett), Samuel Rhodes (Juilliard Quartet), Menahem Pressler (Beaux Arts Trio), and Petra Müllejans (Freiburger Barockorchester).
Always eager to share her passion for music in many ways, Monika was a teaching assistant in Weimar while receiving her Teaching Degree, and she continued to teach, instill and foster the love of music in people of all ages ever since. Upon completion of her Masters Degree in San Francisco she was offered a position as violin instructor at SFCM's Pre-College Division, where she is now also coaching chamber music. Her students are doing well in competitions, and they got accepted into the SF Youth Orchestra as well as into colleges, such as Rice University Shepherd School of Music, Cleveland Institute of Music, Vanderbilt University Blair School of Music, and UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music.
David Ryther (violin) has brought his interpretive powers as a soloist to such festivals as the Darmstadt Summer Festival of New Music, the Banff Center, and the Green Umbrella Series at the Bing theater in Los Angeles. He has been featured playing new music with adventurous ensembles sfSoundGroup, Earplay, San Francisco Contemporary Players, the Berkeley New Music Ensemble, Sonor, and Octagon. An active violinist, he can be found playing in many of the orchestras and ensembles in the Bay Area including the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra. David graduated with highest honors in music from UC Santa Cruz and recently received his doctorate in contemporary violin performance from UC San Diego. A dedicated teacher and conductor, David is a teacher and assistant conductor with Villa Sinfonia in San Francisco, teaches violin at the Crowden School, and has served as coach and interim conductor with the Berkeley Youth Orchestra. As a composer, David has had world premieres played by the Villa Sinfonia, an orchestra piece called "Friend" commissioned by the Croi Glan dance troupe in Cork Ireland, and has worked in residency with Kate Weare company in New York and Dandelion Dance Theater in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Native of Iran, Omid Assadi (viola) holds a B.M. and M.M. from San Francisco Conservatory of Music where he studied with Jodie Levitz and Bettina Mussumeli. Mr. Assadi is an active ensemble player and soloist; he has concertized with many of the Bay Area’s orchestras and has appeared numerous times as soloist with Golden Gate Philharmonic, City College of San Francisco String Orchestra, Kensington Symphony Orchestra, and Villa Sinfonia. Omid’s love for chamber music has led him to study chamber music with the members of the Kronos String Quartet as well as the San Francisco Conservatory of Music faculty members. In addition, he has collaborated with Jennifer Culp, Jodi Levitz, Jorja Fleezanis, and with the Shams Ensemble.
An active chamber musician, David Wishnia (cello) routinely concertizes with both the Circadian String Quartet and the Villa Piano Trio, and has taught at the Zephyr Point Chamber Music Camp and Sequoia Chamber Music Workshop. David has also appeared as a soloist with the Contra Costa Chamber Orchestra and Villa Sinfonia. He is currently a member of the Marin Symphony, and has performed in numerous Bay Area ensembles, including the Berkeley Symphony, Modesto Symphony, Sacramento Symphony, Russian Chamber Orchestra, and Marin Oratorio, among others. David received his Master of Music degree from the Yale School of Music, where he studied with Aldo Parisot. He also studied with Jerome Carrington and Maurice Gendron, and received coaching from Paul Tortelier, Janos Starker, and Pierre Pasquier.