Classical Music Buzz > The Alexander String Quartet
The Alexander String Quartet
Going for over 30 years
382 Entries

Fanfare Magazine’s Huntley Dent offers a second review for our July 27th release, Mozart: The Piano Quartets, Apotheosis, Vol. 2 with pianist Joyce Yang!

Mozart: The Piano Quartets - Apotheosis, Vol. 2“The long-standing and widely praised Alexander Quartet brings warmth and vitality to Mozart’s wonderful piano quartets, which date from 1785 and 1786—fitting just before and after Le nozze di Figaro—performing them with the capacity to make experienced listeners travel back in time. This is what the elite of American quartets sounded like when the Alexander was founded in 1981.… I’ll admit to it freely—the Alexander Quartet plays Mozart as heirs to a lineage I cherish…the Alexanders sound probing and sympathetic, ranging from sparkling gaiety to floating lyricism and vivid exuberance…Yang is impeccable in mastering each aspect—one never feels that the Classical bounds have been exceeded, yet her playing isn’t dainty or understated. Yang exhibits a lovely feeling for the lyric line in the two slow movements, where the piano carries much of the music. … In all, this lovely new release could easily be a listener’s first choice in two of Mozart’s most ingratiating chamber works. The recorded sound is excellent. The Foghorn label is dedicated to extensive releases from the Alexander Quartet, and among the late works of Mozart, they’ve recorded the quartets dedicated to Haydn and are moving on to the “King of Prussia” Quartets next. I’ve promised myself to listen to both.”

Huntley Dent, Fanfare

Pre-Order the recording on Amazon today!

4 days ago |
Tag
| Read Full Story

Fanfare Magazine’s Jerry Dubins offers the first review for the Alexander String Quartet and Joyce Yang’s July 27th release, Mozart: The Piano Quartets, Apotheosis, Vol. 2!

Mozart: The Piano Quartets - Apotheosis, Vol. 2“Some time has passed since last hearing from the Alexander String Quartet, but the wait has been well worth it. I will state categorically at the outset of this review that these are by far, hands down and feet up, the most amazing performances of Mozart’s two piano quartets that have ever graced these ears. Superlatives to describe the playing of three members of the Alexander String Quartet—violinist Zakarias Grafilo, violist Paul Yarbrough, and cellist Sandy Wilson, joined by pianist Joyce Yang—escape me…Never have I heard such keen awareness of this dimension of the score as I hear it in this performance. To say that the ensemble plays with a unanimity of attack, articulate phrasing, and penetrating tone is almost beside the point. Today, those aspects of execution are expected from the world’s topflight chamber music players. But what really sets these readings apart for me is the ways in which these musicians connect the dots, so to speak, and find just the right moments and just the right ways in which to reveal to us Mozart’s underlying grand plan.… This is truly phenomenal both in terms of the playing and the recording. … That said, the only word to describe the Alexander Quartet members and Joyce Yang’s playing of [The Piano Quartet in E-flat Major, K 493] is exquisite. …Long-time [favorite recordings] of mine in these two works…[are] all excellent, but none of them holds a candle to these new performances by the Alexander Quartet minus one, plus Joyce Yang. The difference is so stark that I would compare it to having lived an existence of privation, but never having known anything better, you thought you were blessed. But then this comes along, and you suddenly realize that what you thought was plenitude was actually poverty. If that’s not an urgent recommendation, I’m not sure what is.” —Jerry Dubins, Fanfare Magazine

Pre-Order the recording on Amazon today!

5 days ago |
Tag
| Read Full Story

Mozart: The Piano Quartets — Apotheosis, Vol. 2

Mozart: The Piano Quartets - Apotheosis, Vol. 2Now Available for Pre-Order on Amazon

Maintaining focus on Mozart’s last years, members of the Alexander String Quartet join with electrifying and much-lauded pianist Joyce Yang on this recording of the two piano quartets. This is the second of a three-volume set which will include many of Mozart’s great chamber works from that period.

Eric Bromberger’s liner notes contextualize these works within the canon: “Some have claimed that Mozart invented the piano quartet, but he did not. Other composers—including the fourteen-year-old Beethoven—had written quartets for piano and strings earlier, but Mozart was the first to face squarely the challenges of this difficult form, and he wrote the first two great piano quartets.”

Pre-Order Today

21 days ago |
Tag
| Read Full Story
Tuesday
April 24, 2017
7:30 pm
Anne Ratner Concert Series
New York, New York

Tel: (518) 329-7924
Web: www.anneratnerconcertseries.org

Program:
TBA

Wednesday
April 25, 2018
7:30 pm
Baruch Performing Arts Center
Baruch College, City University of New York
Engelman Recital Hall
New York, New York

Tel: (646) 312-5073
Web: baruch.cuny.edu/bpac

Program:
Robert Schumann Quartet in A Minor, Op. 41 No. 1
Clara Schumann Piano Trio in  G Minor, Op. 17 with pianist, Joyce Yang
Robert Schumann Piano Quintet in E-flat Major, Op. 44 with pianist, Joyce Yang

Thursday
April 26, 2018
2:45 pm
Aaron Silberman Concert Series
Baruch College, City University of New York
Engelman Recital Hall
New York, New York

Tel: (646) 312-5073
Web: baruch.cuny.edu
or baruch.cuny.edu/bpac

Program:
Mozart Quartet in B-flat Major, KV 458, “Hunt”
Mahler-Grafilo Kindertotenlieder with mezzo-soprano, Kindra Scharich

Friday
April 27, 2018
7:30 pm
Baruch Performing Arts Center
Baruch College, City University of New York
Engelman Recital Hall
New York, New York

Tel: (646) 312-5073
Web: baruch.cuny.edu/bpac

Program:
Schumann Quartet in A Major, Op. 41 No. 3
Brahms Quartet in C Minor, Op. 51 No. 1
Brahms Quartet in A Minor, Op. 51 No. 2

Sunday
April 29, 2018
5:00 pm
Baruch Performing Arts Center
Baruch College, City University of New York
Engelman Recital Hall
New York, New York

Tel: (646) 312-5073
Web: baruch.cuny.edu/bpac

Program:
Clara Schumann Variations on a Theme by Robert, Op. 20; Joyce Yang, solo piano
Clara Schumann Romances for Violin and Piano, Op. 21 with pianist, Joyce Yang
Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms selected songs for voice and piano with mezzo-soprano, Kindra Scharich
Brahms Two Songs for Voice, Viola and Piano, Op. 91 with pianist, Joyce Yang and mezzo-soprano, Kindra Scharich
Brahms Piano Quintet in F Minor, Op. 34 with pianist, Joyce Yang

2 months ago |
Tag
| Read Full Story

Eric Bromberger offers the following background on The Alexander String Quartet’s March 30, 2018 performance of Haydn’s The Seven Last Words of Our Saviour on the Cross at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco:

Haydn may have claimed that his thirty years as kapellmeister to the Esterhazy princes forced him to work in isolation, but from that quiet isolation his fame spread steadily across Europe. One of the clearest signs of this came in 1784 when Haydn received a handsome commission from Paris for six symphonies, and he worked on these“Paris” Symphonies (Nos. 82-87) during the years 1785-86. At exactly this same moment came an even more remarkable commission. A Spanish cleric wrote to Haydn to ask for music to accompany the reading–on Good Friday, 1787–of the seven final statements of Christ on the cross.

Haydn rarely commented on his music, but in 1801 he recalled the circumstances of this work’s creation, and it is worth quoting him at length:

About fifteen years ago I was requested by a canon of Cadíz to compose instrumental music on the Seven Words of Jesus on the Cross. It was the custom of the Cathedral of Cadíz to produce an oratorio every year during Lent, the effect of the performance being not a little enhanced by the following circumstances. The walls, windows, and pillars of the church were hung with black cloth, and only a large lamp, hanging from the center of the roof, broke the solemn obscurity. At midday, the doors were closed and the ceremony began. After an appropriate prelude, the bishop ascended the pulpit, pronounced one of the Seven Words and delivered a discourse thereon. This ended, he left the pulpit and knelt prostrate before the altar. This pause was filled with music. The bishop then in like manner pronounced the second word, then the third, and so on, the orchestra falling in at the conclusion of the discourse.

It should further be noted that the Good Friday observances in Cadiz took place not in the cathedral but in the Chapel of Santa Cueva, a cave carved in a hillside beneath the cathedral, so this music was first performed in a profound darkness.

Haydn wrote this set of musical meditations for large orchestra (one that included four horns and timpani), and it was performed in Cadíz on April 6, 1787. But it is a telling indication of the fame of the 55-year-old composer that it was performed almost simultaneously in both Vienna and Bonn; in fact, those two performances took place at the end of March and so preceded the Cadíz ceremony (and it is likely that one of the performers in the Bonn orchestra was a 16-year-old violist named Beethoven). Alert to the commercial possibilities of this music, Haydn quickly arranged it for string quartet–the version heard on this program–and oversaw its transcription for solo piano; some years later–in 1796 as he was beginning work on his oratorios–he made a further arrangement for soloists, chorus, and expanded orchestra. He regarded The Seven Last Words of Christ as one of the greatest successes he ever had as a composer, and he conducted it at his last public performance, in 1803.

There is no question about Haydn’s devout Catholic faith: he inscribed the words Laus Deo (“Praise God”) at the end of the manuscripts of all of his symphonies. But while he welcomed this commission, he found it a challenge, noting that “it was not an easy matter to compose seven Adagios to last ten minutes each, and follow one after the other without fatiguing the listener . . .” Uncertain how to proceed, he consulted his friend, the Abbé Maximilian Stadler, who suggested building the main theme of each movement on the rhythm of its Latin text, and this proved a useful procedure.

Haydn said of The Seven Last Words: “Each [movement], or rather each setting of the text, is expressed only by instrumental music, but in such a way that it creates the most profound impression on even the most inexperienced listener.” The challenge for him as a composer was to capture the spirit of these solemn words and to create music suitable for meditation on each of them, yet still to engage a listener’s interest across the span of seven slow movements. He addressed the last of these in several ways: by making sharp contrasts between the character of the movements (some are lyric and lamenting, others dramatic), by varying keys effectively, and by contrasting sonorities–muting the strings for one movement, using pizzicato at other points. Haydn frames these seven slow movements with contrasted outer movements. He establishes a suitably solemn atmosphere with an Introduction in D minor that he marks Maestoso ed Adagio, and he concludes with a musical depiction of the earthquake that rocked Calvary after the crucifixion. At last we have a fast movement–it is marked Presto e con tutta la forza–and it brings The Seven Last Words to a conclusion that is satisfying both emotionally and musically.

Haydn’s arrangement of this orchestral music for string quartet is particularly successful, and the music is most often heard today in this version. At the time he made this transcription, he had already written 43 of his 83 string quartets, and the music is beautifully conceived for the four instruments in this version. The seven meditative movements do not really require detailed description. Each is in sonata form, which allows Haydn the scope to develop the implications of his opening theme, much as a meditation expands on its fundamental idea. These movements do not offer scene-painting, but instead are emotional correlatives to the words of the dying Christ, and listeners might best approach them as did the listeners at the first performance in Cadíz: by reading the text of each movement and being aware of it as they listen to Haydn’s musical response.

—Eric Bromberger

3 months ago |
Tag
| Read Full Story

The Alexander String Quartet’s March 30, 2018 performance of Haydn’s The Seven Last Words of Our Saviour on the Cross at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco will feature readings between the movements from Dean Emeritus, Alan Jones. Dean Emeritus Jones offers his notes for these readings below:

The readings between the movements are meant to be a form of suggestive punctuation – a way of allowing the music to enter into our minds and hearts, to introduce us to new ways of experiencing the mystery of suffering love at the heart of things. This means being aware not only of our attraction and resistance to it, but also of our rejection of it.

Just one example: Shusako Endo’s novel, The Silence of God is about 17th c Japanese martyrs. The narrator watches two men bound to the stake as the tide of the sea comes in over them — until they die exhausted. “What do I want to say? I myself do not understand. Only that today, when for glory of God Mokichi and Ichizo moaned, suffered and died, I cannot bear the monotonous sound of the dark sea gnawing at the shore. Behind the depressing silence of this sea, the silence of God … the feeling that while men raise their voices in anguish God remains with folded arms, silent.” It would be easy simply to bathe in Haydn’s haunting music but his genius invites us into a kind of restlessness which turns into a sense that we are part of something profoundly challenging and hopeful.

And then there’s T.S.Eliot:

Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire.

—Alan Jones, dean emeritus

3 months ago |
Tag
| Read Full Story

If you missed the broadcasts of our Con Moto documentary, you can watch it on-demand via the KQED Truly CA YouTube Channel:

10 months ago |
Tag
| Read Full Story

Set your DVRs – the Alexander String Quartet documentary, Con Moto will be broadcast on KQED’s “Our State, Our Stories” program Friday August 18 at 8pm, Saturday August 19 at 2am, and via KQED Plus on Wednesday, August 23rd at 10am. Watch the trailer via YouTube:

11 months ago |
Tag
| Read Full Story
1 year ago |
Tag
| Read Full Story

Sunday, June 11 will mark the world premiere performance of our own Zak Grafilo’s Mahler Lieder eines Fahrenden gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer) transcription for string quartet and mezzo-soprano (Kindra Scharich). The event will be presented by LIEDER ALIVE! and will also mark the launch of a Kickstarter campaign to support the recording of three of Mahler’s beloved song cycles. Stay tuned for that link and announcement!

1 year ago |
Tag
| Read Full Story
1 - 10  | 123456789 next
InstantEncore