The members of the Escher String Quartet are used to playing as a quartet. But this weekend they enter a season where they may also mix and match with other musicians at summer festivals.
That entree will be through the Chamber Music Festival of the Bluegrass at the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill. At four concerts in two days, the group will perform together and with the festival's other musicians, including first-timers Benjamin Beilman on violin and viola and guitarist Jason Vieaux.
"It's good to have variety, and it's always fun to play with other musicians," Escher violinist Adam Barnett-Hart says.
In addition to being familiar with mixing up musicians, Barnett-Hart notes that the Escher is familiar with the Shaker Village festival, having played at it in 2009.
"It's a very friendly place, and very atmospheric," Barnett-Hart says. "For us, it's nice to get out of New York City and come to a welcoming and rural atmosphere."
The festival has become something of a Memorial Day weekend holiday for artistic directors Wu Han and David Finckel, who Barnett-Hart says have been instrumental in encouraging young talent.
"It's a wonderful thing they do, fostering young artists," he says.
The quartet which formed in 2005, has come a long way since its last visit to the Bluegrass, most notably winning a prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant earlier this month. The group — which includes violinist Aaron Boyd, cellist Dane Johansen, and violist Pierre LaPointe — has built up a distinguished performance resume and is getting ready to release its first album on Naxos records, a collection of quartets by Alexander von Zemlinsky.
At the festival, the quartet will be presenting a quartet by Benjamin Britten, continuing the celebration of the centennial of his birth, in the opening concert. They will also continue an ongoing collaboration with Vieaux, playing Aaron Jay Kernis' 100 Greatest Dance Hits for Guitar and String Quartet Sunday morning.
"Jason had suggested it to us a while ago, and I think we were sort of scared of it, because it's a lot of notes and kind of challenging," Barnett-Hart says. He adds with a laugh, "So I think he went over our heads and suggested it to David and Wu Han, and they put it on the program."
IF YOU GO
Chamber Music Festival of the Bluegrass
What: Four concert event featuring musician from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center: pianist Wu Han, cellist David Finckel, violinist Benjamin Beilman, guitarist Jason Vieaux, and the Escher String Quartet.
When: 11 a.m. May 25 and 26 in the Meeting House (sold out), 5 p.m. May 25 and 26 in Meadow View Barn.
Where: Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, 3501 Lexington Road, Harrodsburg
Tickets: $38 Meadow View Barn concerts. Meeting House performances are sold out. Visit Shakervillageky.org or call 1-800-734-5611, Ext. 1547.