Yumi Hwang-Williams on Beethoven


The Colorado Symphony Concertmaster is bringing her very own girl group to the stage at Cupid’s Playground.

The many layers of love can be seen within the score of Cupid’s Playground. On the outside, mythological references to Cupid arise a flying matchmaker with ANOINTED arrows. Then there’s the score: a contemplative pair of highly-complex string quartets, which are both late works from composers Schubert and Beethoven.

And then, there’s Yumi.

We spoke with the Colorado Symphony Concertmaster about collaborating with Wonderbound for Cupid’s Playground—and how she’s approaching the production.

Wonderbound: Can you speak about what it’s like for you to play with the full orchestra versus doing a string quartet?

Yumi: Playing in an orchestra is only one facet of what we do, as musicians. There’s something perfect about the combination of four voices, that’s an intrinsic part of the diet for a string quartet player. In my orchestra, most people could be interchanged for this project. But stepping aside from my normal orchestra gives me a great opportunity to play with the newer members.

Wonderbound: When did you realize you had chosen all women? Or did you do that intentionally?

Yumi: I wasn’t all that conscious about the all women quartet until we started rehearsals in mid January. It was not premeditated. Actually, Judith was the last piece of the puzzle. Because the Symphony has concerts during our run with Wonderbound, it was important not to pull all the titled players. Several cellists we asked were not available, so Judith was called into deployment! 

Wonderbound: So Cupid’s Playground will open with Company Artist Sarah Tallman’s original ballet,Read The Signs,” which is set to Schubert’s String Quartet No. 13. What can you tell us about it?

Yumi: Schubert was famous for his lieders or songs and beautiful melodies flowed out of him. The “Rosamunde" string quartet is full of intimate lyricism, passionate outbursts and storytelling, especially in the second movement where the famous Rosamunde theme appears. The final movement is a fun, jaunty, folksy party. 

This will give me the opportunity to dive into the epitome of string quartet literature—I can’t stress what a treat this is.

There’s a nice contrast between Garrett’s choice of Beethoven and Sarah’s of Schubert. There’s a sweet and intimate side of Schubert’s No. 13 that’s a nice supplement. Both represent the end of these composer’s life.

Wonderbound: We heard that you have a deep connection to the music for Artistic Director Garrett Ammon’s original ballet, “With Your Help.” When were you first exposed to it?

Yumi: I was first introduced to Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 13 when I was 17. It was a life-changing piece, for me, and I haven’t really had an opportunity to play the full thing. So it’s an incredible chance for me to do this. The whole project will change the way I hear Beethoven, even more.

String Quartet work is an established musical form and we’re playing the pinnacle of that genre. Beethoven and Schubert both took the form to the next level. And when [No.13] Opus 130 was written, Beethoven was basically a mad man. He could no longer hear anything, but his mind was swirling with ideas.

Beethoven was making an incredibly personal statement. And today, we see that he was writing for a much later age and time. Back then, it was so advanced because it broke all the rules. Not only is it technically challenging, but it’s emotionally challenging. It’s mind-blowing, but he [Beethoven] was trying to show every emotion. And it’s that intimacy that I think Garrett felt the most.

I admire Wonderbound for exploring this kind of in-depth quartet repertoire with us. It's extremely artful—and I don’t mean to sound pretentious. But it’s a high form of human achievement to be part of the living legacy…a legacy that continues to survive because of works like this.

Wonderbound: We’re elated to share this experience with you and the ladies and appreciate your resounding support of Wonderbound and collaboration!

I’ll be playing with third season, second chair violinist Susan Paik; fourth season violist Leah Kovach; and Acting Principal Cellist Judith McIntyre Galecki.
— Yumi Hwang-Williams


Lauren Turner