-Mark Swed, LA Times
A unique and versatile cello quintet, hailed as “brilliant” and “superb” by Mark Swed in the Los Angeles Times, SAKURA is built on the artistry and virtuosity of its members: Michael Kaufman, Benjamin Lash, Gabriel Martins, Yoshika Masuda, and Peter Myers. Drawing from the rich heritage of a repertoire that spans eight centuries, eclectic and unexpected programs are constructed around conceptual threads, with an overarching commitment to opening new vistas of beauty and expression by showcasing the great warmth and scope offered by the sound of five cellos.
Performance highlights have included Brett Dean's Twelve Angry Men in Walt Disney Concert Hall as part of the Piatigorsky International Cello Festival, a world premiere of Thomas Mellan's Quintuple Cello Concerto with the USC Symphony, and concerts at Chamber Music Sedona and the Da Camera Society of Los Angeles. SAKURA was awarded two prestigious grants to commission new cello quintets: a Tarisio grant to commission five young American composers (Daniel Allas, Brett Banducci, Derek David, Thomas Kotcheff, and Daniel Silliman) and a New Music USA grant to commission Donald Crockett. This season, they perform in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and spend a week-long residency at the Birdfoot Festival in New Orleans. They also continue as Young Ensemble in Residence of the Da Camera Society.
The quintet operates as a true chamber ensemble, rehearsing extensively and distilling its interpretations through time, and is named in honor of the great mentor and artist Ralph Kirshbaum, with whom all five members studied: 桜 sakura (Japanese) and Kirschbaum (German) have the same meaning (cherry tree).