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String quartet to open Taos festival

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Borromeo String Quartet spans extremes of both intimacy and ferocity.

Dubbed the rock stars of classical music, the Boston-based musicians will return to Taos for the 13th year to open the Taos School of Music Chamber Music Festival at Taos Community Auditorium on Sunday, June 17.

The festival will continue through Aug. 5, with a second Borromeo performance on July 1, as well as concerts by the Miro Quartet, the Brentano String Quartet and more.

Ensemble-in-residence at the New England Conservatory of Music, the Borromeos are also the ensemble-in-residence at the Taos School of Music summer program.

The musicians will perform Mozart’s Divertimento String Trio K 563, as well as a Brahms Piano Trio.

The somewhat exotic name came from a string of concerts the then-newly formed group gave on the Borromean Islands, in the Italian part of a lake that is in Italy and Switzerland.

Violinist Nicholas Kitchen seemed primed for performance from the start. Both his parents were musicians; his violinist mother founded the Duke Preparatory School in Durham, N.C. His father was a math professor, pianist and organist.

“When I was 2 years old, my mother hid violins under the bed,” he said in a telephone interview from his Boston home. “I would get them out and pretend to play them and start singing.”

By the age of 7, he was smitten. He traveled with his parents to a Haitian music camp.

“I heard this very focused, very precise orchestra playing in 90-degree heat with the mosquitoes,” Kitchen said. “I said, ‘I want to play in the orchestra.’ My mom said I wasn’t good enough.”

His mother took him to meet and study with Duke University’s artist-in-residence Georgio Ciompi. He entered Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music at 16.

At the end of his studies at Curtis in 1989, Kitchen joined his schoolmates and founded the Borromeo String Quartet. The group received the Cleveland Quartet Award from Chamber Music America, the Martin S. Segal Award from Lincoln Center, and the Avery Fisher Career Grant.

The violinist called the Mozart Divertimento a “gigantic, virtuosic piece.”

Cellist “Yeesun (Kim) and I just played this piece in Korea,” he said.

The quartet will play the Brahms Piano Trio in B major or C major

The B major was one of the first pieces penned by the composer, Kitchen said. “He came back to it right at the end of his life, because he was dissatisfied with it.”

Brahms wrote the Piano Trio in C Major at the end of his life.

“It’s like K2 versus Mount Everest,” Kitchen said. “It’s an equally fantastic piece done in his complete mastery. In my opinion, he invented the kind of grandeur we hear with a very great pianist paired with strings.”