Momenta: the plural of momentum – four individuals in motion towards a common goal. This is the idea behind the Momenta Quartet, whose eclectic vision encompasses contemporary music of all aesthetic backgrounds alongside great music from the recent and distant past. Momenta has premiered over 100 works and collaborated with over 120 living composers and, in the words of The New Yorker’s Alex Ross, “few American players assume Haydn’s idiom with such ease.”
The quartet came into being in November 2004, when violist Stephanie Griffin was invited to perform Mario Davidovsky’s String Trio for events celebrating Judaism and Culture at New York’s Symphony Space and Temple University in Philadelphia. The rehearsals and performances were so satisfying that the players decided to form a quartet. It was so easy – add one violinist, and away it went. A residency through the composition department at Temple University was already in place. Through this residency, Momenta gave two concerts a year highlighting the talents of Temple University student composers alongside 20th-century masterworks and works from the classical canon, repeating the programs at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture in the quartet’s home base of New York City. From the outset, Momenta treated all music equally, devoting as much time, care and commitment to the student works as to the imposing musical monuments.
Word of Momenta’s passionate advocacy for emerging composers spread quickly. Composers started inviting Momenta for similar concerts and residencies at other academic institutions, among them Cornell, Columbia and Yeshiva Universities; the Boston and Cincinnati Conservatories; and the Eastman School of Music. In 2008 the quartet won its first major commission grant from the Koussevitzky Foundation for Malaysian composer Kee Yong Chong, and since received a second Koussevitzky grant for Bolivian composer Agustín Fernández.
Deeply committed to the musical avant-garde of the developing world, Momenta has been the single most important advocate for the music of numerous international composers in this country. In addition to world premieres by Chong and Fernández, Momenta has premiered and championed the works of Tony Prabowo (Indonesia), Cergio Prudencio (Bolivia) and Hana Ajiashvili (Georgia.) Upcoming adventures include a project to perform and record all thirteen string quartets by Mexican microtonal maverick Julián Carrillo (1875-1965) over the next three years.
Momenta is a powerful collective incorporating the strengths and passions of each of its individual members. Current members have been playing together since 2009, with Adda Kridler joining in 2012. Founding violist Stephanie Griffin combines a classical music career with multifaceted improvisational adventures in Indonesia and in New York City’s vibrant avant-jazz scene. Violinist Emilie-Anne Gendron has won awards in major competitions such as the Stulberg String Competition and the Sion-Valais International Violin Competition. She tours regularly with Musicians from Marlboro and the Sejong Soloists and joined Momenta in 2009. Also with Momenta since 2009, cellist Michael Haas spent his formative years studying with renowned string quartet cellists David Soyer and Joel Krosnick. He is a graduate of the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music and performs regularly with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and the Argento Chamber Ensemble. Adda Kridler studied neuroscience at Harvard and violin at the New England Conservatory. She has held positions in major orchestras, performs regularly with many of New York’s orchestras and contemporary music ensembles and has been a member of Momenta since 2012. The combined musical tastes of Momenta’s four members have resulted in a unique personal repertoire spanning from Palestrina to Cage, from the new complexity of Arthur Kampela to theatrical works by Mauricio Kagel and Tan Dun and world premieres by jazz legend Yusef Lateef.
As Steve Smith wrote in The New York Times, “Word of the Momenta Quartet’s diligence, curiosity and excellence is definitely out.” Momenta has appeared at such prestigious venues as the Library of Congress, National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery, Rubin Museum, Miller Theatre at Columbia University, and the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study and looks forward to high-profile concerts at Chamber Music Cincinnati, Washington University and at the internationally renowned Cervantino Festival in Mexico. Momenta gave its Mexican debut at the National University (UNAM) last June and has performed in the United Kingdom, Indonesia and Singapore.
Momenta has recorded for Centaur Records, Furious Artisans, PARMA, New World Records, and Albany Records; and has been broadcast on WQXR, Q2 Music, Austria’s Oe1, and Vermont Public Radio. The quartet’s debut album, Similar Motion, is available on Albany Records.