Celebrating its 35th Anniversary in 2016, the Alexander String Quartet has performed in the major music capitals of five continents, securing its standing among the world’s premier ensembles. Widely admired for its interpretations of Beethoven, Mozart, Shostakovich, and Brahms, the quartet’s recordings of the Beethoven cycle (twice), Bartók, and Shostakovich cycles have won international critical acclaim. The quartet has also established itself as an important advocate of new music through over 30 commissions from such composers as Jake Heggie, Cindy Cox, Augusta Read Thomas, Robert Greenberg, Martin Bresnick, César Cano, and Pulitzer Prize-winner, Wayne Peterson. A new work by Tarik O'Regan, commissioned for the Alexander by the Boise Chamber Music Series, was premiered in 2016.
The Alexander String Quartet is a major artistic presence in its home base of San Francisco, serving since 1989 as Ensemble in Residence for San
Francisco Performances and Directors of the Morrison
Chamber Music Center in the College
of Liberal and Creative Arts at San
Francisco State University.
The Alexander String Quartet’s annual calendar of concerts includes engagements at major halls throughout North America and Europe. The quartet has appeared at Lincoln
Center, the 92nd
Street Y, and the Metropolitan
Museum in New York City; Jordan
Hall in Boston; the Library
of Congress and Dumbarton
Oaks in Washington; and chamber music societies and universities across the North American continent. Recent overseas tours have brought them to the U.K., the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, France, Greece, the Republic of Georgia, Argentina, Panamá, and the Philippines. In 2015 they toured Poland in a debut performance at the Beethoven
Easter Festival, and a documentary film, Con Moto, based on that tour was released in 2016.
Among the fine musicians with whom the Alexander String Quartet has collaborated are pianists Joyce Yang, Roger Woodward, Anne-Marie McDermott, Jon Nakamatsu, Menahem Pressler, and Jeremy Menuhin; clarinetists Joan Enric Lluna, David Shifrin, Richard Stolzman, and Eli Eban; soprano Elly Ameling; mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato; cellists Lynn Harrell, Sadao Harada, and David Requiro; violist Toby Appel; and jazz greats, Branford Marsalis, David Sánchez, and Andrew Speight. The quartet has worked with many composers including Aaron Copland, George Crumb, and Elliot Carter and has long enjoyed a close relationship with composer-lecturer Robert Greenberg, performing numerous lecture-concerts with him annually.
The Alexander String Quartet added considerably to its distinguished and wide-ranging discography over the past decade, now recording exclusively for the FoghornClassics label. There were three major releases in the 2013-2014 season: The combined string quartet cycles of Bartók and Kodály, recorded on the renowned Ellen M. Egger Quartet of matched instruments built by San Francisco luthier, Francis Kuttner ("If ever an album had "Grammy nominee" written on its front cover, this is it." -Audiophile Audition); The String Quintets & Sextets of Brahms with Toby Appel and David Requiro ("a uniquely detailed, transparent warmth" -Strings Magazine); and the Brahms & Schumann Piano Quintets with Joyce Yang ("passionate, soulful readings of two pinnacles of the chamber repertory" -The New York Times). 2015 saw the release of Patagón, featuring works by contemporary composer Cindy Cox. ASQ's recording of music by Gershwin and Kern was released in the summer of 2012, following the Spring 2012 recording of the clarinet quintet of Brahms, paired with a new quintet from César Cano (In Friendship), in collaboration with Joan Enric Lluna, as well as a disc in collaboration with the San Francisco Choral Artists (with Strings Attached). Next up: The May 2017 release of Apotheosis (vol. 1, 2-CD set), which is the first of a two-volume compilation of Mozart's late works.
The Alexander's 2009 release of the complete Beethoven Cycle was described by Music Web International as performances “uncompromising in power, intensity and spiritual depth,” while Strings Magazine described the set as “a landmark journey through the greatest of all quartet cycles.” In 2004, the FoghornClassics label released a three-CD set (Homage) of the Mozart quartets dedicated to Haydn. FoghornClassics released a six-CD album (Fragments Volume 1 & Volume 2) of the complete Shostakovich quartets in 2006 and 2007, and a recording of the complete quartets of Pulitzer prize-winning San Francisco composer, Wayne Peterson (Retrospections), was released in the Spring of 2008. BMG Classics released the quartet’s first recording of Beethoven cycle on its Arte Nova label to tremendous critical acclaim in 1999.
The Alexander String Quartet was formed in New York City in 1981 and captured international attention as the first American quartet to win the London International String Quartet Competition in 1985. The quartet has received honorary degrees from Allegheny College and St. Lawrence University, and presidential medals from Baruch College (CUNY).
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