Aeolus String Quartet

Former graduate string quartet at UT has graduated to teaching and a bustling career

The Aeolus at work: (l-r) Nicholas Tavani, Rachel Shapiro, Alan Richardson, and Gregory Luce
The Aeolus at work: (l-r) Nicholas Tavani, Rachel Shapiro, Alan Richardson, and Gregory Luce (Courtesy of The Aeolus String Quartet)

Music students are a lot like medieval apprentices. They learn a whole set of unspoken rules, traditions, and techniques that define the art – not things you can quickly pick up from a textbook or YouTube, but subtle principles gleaned through a long process of working with master musicians.

The Aeolus String Quartet spent two years as the Butler School of Music's first graduate string quartet in residence, during which its members apprenticed with the masterful Miró Quartet, UT's faculty string quartet in residence since 2007. Aeolus first violinist Nicholas Tavani described the period as "formative" for the quartet, developing such hard-to-pinpoint skills as how to achieve balance in the ensemble, how to communicate with one another during a performance, and nitpicky details like how to release the ends of notes in sync. "The Miró Quartet really whipped us into shape!"

Tavani and Aeolus members Rachel Shapiro, violin; Gregory Luce, viola; and Alan Richardson, cello, are definitely in shape now, playing with buzzing energy and incisiveness. This year, they balance a bustling performance schedule – the Smithsonian, Lincoln Center – with a new residency at the shiny Juilliard School of Music in New York. And the tables have turned; now Aeolus' members are coaching undergraduate chamber groups and passing the skills they've cultivated down the line.

Aeolus returns to Austin this week for Salon Concerts' 2013-14 season with a heavy-hitting program including Ravel's evocative String Quartet. Tavani describes the composer as "a watchmaker" who meticulously crafts his music, even though the result sounds gestural and whimsical. "There's not a note out of place in that entire quartet!" he exclaims. In contrast stands Amy Beach's 1907 Piano Quintet, which beams with lush harmonies and romantic melodies reminiscent of Brahms. A New Hampshire native, the self-taught Beach became one of the first professionally successful female composers, though her work was less well-known and performed in her lifetime. It's a fitting work for Salon Concerts since Artistic Director Kathryn Mishell is a composer herself and producer/host of KMFA's Into the Light, which champions female composers.

This is an exciting moment for the musicians of Aeolus, shedding their roles as students and entering the realm of masters while concertizing like crazy. But they still love to visit Austin, where they can see familiar faces in the audience and visit with some of their mentors. And Tavani confides, "We miss the food there a lot. It's tacos once a day when we're back."

The Aeolus Quartet will perform Sunday, Nov. 24, 4:30pm; and Monday, Nov. 25, 7pm, at locations to be announced, as part of Salon Concerts' 2013-14 season. For more information, visit

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Aeolus String Quartet
All Over Creation: Mozart Was an Austinite
All Over Creation: Mozart Was an Austinite
The spirit of innovation that drove the composer lives on in our city

Robert Faires, Feb. 15, 2013

More Austin classical music
The Creation
Texas Choral Consort's performance of Haydn's masterwork reawakened one's sense of life in all its immense variety

Robert Faires, Aug. 22, 2014

Austin Chamber Musical Festival Sixth Annual Pride Concert
Austin Chamber Musical Festival Sixth Annual Pride Concert
Was G.F. Handel on your Gaydar?

Natalie Zeldin, July 11, 2014

More by Natalie Zeldin
Texas Early Music Project's <i>Convivencia Re-Envisioned</i>
Texas Early Music Project's Convivencia Re-Envisioned
Spanish Christian music, Sephardic Jewish song, and al-Andalus melodies meld in this special concert

Sept. 4, 2015

A Hole in His Heart
A Hole in His Heart
Baritone Morgan Smith reveals how he becomes that lover we love to hate, Don Giovanni

April 24, 2015


Austin classical music, Aeolus String Quartet, Butler School of Music, Miró Quartet, Nicholas Tavani, Rachel Shapiro, Alan Richardson, Gregory Luce, Salon Concerts, Kathryn Mishell, KMFA, Into the Light

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle