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Nexus String Quartet wins $5,000 grand prize tackling 20th century work

Monday, March 15, 2010 | 11:15 a.m. CDT; updated 4:27 p.m. CDT, Monday, March 15, 2010

COLUMBIA — Nexus String Quartet won $5,000 grand prize at the fourth Plowman Chamber Music Competition on Sunday evening at the Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts.

The Nexus String Quartet was formed in 2008 by members Eric Chin, Andrea Oh, Daniel Jang and Charles Akert. The ensemble is a quartet-in-residence at Kent State University in Ohio. First to play among five finalists, Nexus gave zesty performances of "Funf Satze" by Anton Webern and the "String Quartet No. 4" by Bela Bartok.

 The $2,000 first prize in the woodwinds, brass and percussion category went to Red Line Saxophone Quartet. The Rochester, N.Y., ensemble, whose members wore red shirts under their dark suits, performed Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings" and William Albright's "Fantasy Etudes," in which the saxophonists filled the theater with sounds of bagpipes and trains.

The Hugo & Lucy Vianello Audience Award went to Amphion String Quartet of New Haven, Conn. Amphion, which played the first three movements of Beethoven's "String Quartet No. 6 in B-Flat Minor" and the second movement of Bartok's "String Quartet No. 2,"  also won the $2,000 first prize in the piano and strings category.

The $500 honorable mentions went to Axiom Brass Quartet and Arabesque Woodwind Quintet.

"It's a fantastic opportunity to hear the best young musicians of our time," said Eric Staley, chief executive officer of the theater.

 This year's judges were Russian pianist Boris Berman of Yale University, Israeli violist Atar Arad of Indiana University and American trombonist Mark Kellogg of the Eastman School of Music and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. Ayako Tsuruta, the competition's artistic director, was careful not to name the ensembles as she opened the evening concert so that the judges could base their assessments on the performances; they were seated in the balcony, which was otherwise closed.

This is the first year the Plowman competition has been in the theater since its renovation. In 2008, it was moved to First Baptist Church. This year's semifinals, involving 18 ensembles from across the country, were on Saturday at First Baptist. No competition was held last year.


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