One aspect of the Ciompi Quartet’s significance has been its members’ perennial engagement with the chamber music festivals that dot the cultural landscape of the United States and the world each summer. Like many facets of the quartet’s identity, this affinity for summer festivals can be partly attributed to Ciompi himself, who played in the renowned Pablo Casals Festival in Puerto Rico and taught students at the Aspen (Colorado) Festival, the Siena (Italy) Summer Sessions, and the Kneisel Hall Festival in Blue Hill, Maine. Other members of the quartet brought their own festival experience. Violinist Claudia Erdberg, for example, was a participant at the Spoleto and Salerno festivals, while cellist Fred Raimi played in the Spoleto, Marlboro, and Monadnock festivals. For some years in the 1970s, Erdberg and violist Julia Mueller joined Ciompi in his summer travels to Maine, where all three of them served as coaches and instructors at Kneisel Hall.
Some of these festivals were devoted to strong performances of adventurous programming: the Spoleto and Monadnock festivals, both founded by noted composers, stand out in this regard. Other festivals, such as those at Aspen, Siena, and Kneisel Hall, were more pedagogical in intent, affording younger musicians an opportunity to work with established and experienced artists. This array of festivals thus illustrates the wide range of musical interests and roles that members of the quartet filled within the broader international culture of classical music.
In fact, some of the connections that helped to shape the direction of the Ciompi Quartet were formed at these summer festivals long before the players had any idea they would later move to Duke. Two future members—Jonathan Bagg and Eric Pritchard—both attended Kneisel Hall as students in the 1970s, where both of them met Ciompi and worked with him. Although the founder of the quartet had died by the time these two men arrived at Duke, both Bagg and Pritchard cite their summer experience with Giorgio as a reason for their interest in joining the Ciompi Quartet. As well, both Bagg and Fred Raimi were participants at Monadnock Music in New Hampshire. When the quartet sought a new violist following the departure of George Taylor in 1986, Raimi already knew of Bagg as a talented player from the festival.
Since 1995, the quartet has consisted entirely of individual musicians with a history of significant summer festival activities. (Some of Pritchard’s, Bagg’s, and Raimi’s experiences are noted above. Hsiao-mei Ku has served as assistant concertmaster at the Spoleto Festival, while the quartet’s newest member, Caroline Stinson, is the artistic co-director of the Weekend of Chamber Music Festival in the Southern Catskill region of New York.) Significantly, from 1996 forward, the quartet frequently appeared as a group at such festivals as the Highlands-Cashiers Festival in the mountains of North Carolina, Monadnock Music, and the American Music Festival in Beaufort, North Carolina. The ensemble’s participation in Monadnock Music proved particularly long-lasting: the ensemble was featured there annually well into the 2000s. Thus, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, summer chamber music festivals shifted from being an area of interest for many individual Ciompi Quartet members over the years to being an important aspect of the group’s collective identity.