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Brahms String Quartets (FCL 2022)

Brahms String Quartets Cover

InfoDad’s Top Rating

“The subtlety and mutuality of purpose with which the members of the Alexander String Quartet approach Brahms’ three quartets are almost a perfect example of the conversational form of music-making of which string quartets have been exemplars since Haydn’s time. This ensemble’s sheer tonal quality is the first thing a listener will notice: there is purity, warmth, richness and elegance throughout. And there is precision, too: many quartets rely on vibrato to produce a larger, warmer sound, but the Alexander String Quartet is remarkably restrained in this regard, its vibrato as carefully controlled as its ensemble passages are tightly bound. This works exceptionally well in Brahms. …these performers manage to make both the singing elements and the double-stopping clear through a sense of mutuality that approaches sleight of hand. Indeed, the third string quartet, which in some ways is the lightest of the three despite the considerable compositional elegance of the final Poco Allegretto con Variazoni, comes across with such pleasure and apparently casual playfulness here that it is easy to see why this work in B-flat was Brahms’ favorite of his three quartets. […] As an encore for this two-CD set, there is an interesting quartet setting of the late piano Intermezzo in A, created by the Alexander String Quartet’s first violinist, Zakarias Grafilo. The arrangement emphasizes the gentle tenderness of this little lullaby, and the fact that the recording ends with this Andante teneramente piece rather than something more virtuosic and intense shows clearly the sensitivity and care with which this ensemble’s members approach all the repertoire heard here.” (November 2021, FCL 2022 Brahms String Quartets)

“…a stunning achievement”

“It’s been quite a ride for the Alexander Quartet. From the first time I heard them, roughly 16 years ago, I was convinced that they were the premiere American string quartet and one of the best in the world. […]  They play Brahms the way they played Beethoven, with brisk tempi and sharp attacks, which gives the music a much more exciting profile, and of course they still have that incredible tonal sheen that sets them apart from everyone else. Whatever their secret, the ASQ has the most sheerly beautiful sound of any string quartet I’ve ever heard, and it’s not because they use a lot of string vibrato. On the contrary, all four players have an even, tight vibrato, and although they occasionally use portamento it is not broad or mannered. […] One wonders why Alexander waited so long to record these works; perhaps they wanted to be sure that their interpretations matched the mental image that each player had of them, to make the recordings a lasting monument to their interpretations. If so, they made the right decision. There is not a note or phrase in the entire series that does not sound right in terms of musical structure. […] By any standard…this set is a stunning achievement of brilliant playing, gorgeous string sound, and exciting, dynamic interpretations. Really, not to be missed.”

LYNN RENE BAYLEY, ART MUSIC LOUNGE (October 2021, FCL 2022 Brahms String Quartets)

Brahms & Mozart — Clarinet Quintets (FCL 2021)

“…clearly one of the ASQ’s finest releases”

Brahms & Mozart Clarinet Quintets

Mozart:  “Eban’s variety of tone helps make the entire quintet sound wonderful…[and how the ASQ] manages to create a sound that is blended while still retaining an individuality of sound in each of the four voices is a miracle I have not yet figured out…”

Brahms:  “Eban’s wonderfully nuanced clarinet playing brings a wealth of color to the proceedings, as does the Alexander Quartet’s sense of rhythm. In fact, the rhythmic elements of this work are brought off better than in any other recording I’ve heard, as is their penchant for nuance. In the first movement alone, the quintet creates an entire world of sound and feeling without ever overdoing it or trying to bring attention to themselves. This was a feature of theirBrahms Piano Quintets with Joyce Yang, and they equal their playing in that recording here…”

In toto, this is clearly one of the Alexander Quartet’s finest releases.”

LYNN RENE BAYLEY, ART MUSIC LOUNGE (June 2020, FCL 2021 Brahms and Mozart — Clarinet Quintets)

Dvořák / Locale (FCL 2020)

One of MusicWeb International’s Recordings of the Year 2019!

“To my ear this [the ‘American’ quartet] is pretty much an ideal performance…. Somehow, the players have managed to return to a very standard work in the repertoire and play it with the bright-eyed brilliance of first acquaintance — genuinely a performance to cherish….Indeed, almost exactly the same can be said of the Piano Quintet performance that shares the disc….highest accolades.”

NICK BARNARD, MUSIC-WEB INTERNATIONAL, original “Recording of the Month” review (FCL2020, Locale — Dvořák: String Quartet in F Major, Op. 96 “American” and Piano Quintet in A Major, Op. 81)



“There is absolutely no shortage of recordings of these two popular Dvořák works, but this one is a standout. The Alexander String Quartet…continues to deliver. … Consider this pairing of the String Quartet in F major, Op. 96 (“American”), with the Piano Quintet in A major, Op. 81. The latter work features Joyce Yang on piano, seamlessly adapting herself to the quartet’s lively warmth. The “American” quartet is even better, with the group catching the dance rhythms that percolate throughout but are sometimes lost in the cool string quartet medium. Sample the Molto vivace Scherzo of the quartet, which has a lightness that has rarely been achieved elsewhere. Each movement of both works reveals original ideas…. Impressive work that adds to the sterling reputation of this ensemble.”

JAMES MANHEIM, ALLMUSIC REVIEW (Nov. 2019, Dvořák — Locale, FCL2020

“The Alexander String Quartet, joined by Joyce Yang in Dvořák’s Piano Quintet, has done it again. Hard on the heels of the ASQ’s recent release of Mozart’s last three string quartets, and the ensemble’s only slightly less recent release of Mozart’s two piano quartets with Joyce Yang, this exceptionally well-attuned group of players brings us two of Dvořák’s happiest, most inspired chamber works in what are quite possibly the happiest, most inspired performances of them I’ve ever heard. …overflowing with warmth, joyfulness, non-stop Czech-inflected melodies and rhythms, and their composer’s sense of delight in his own gifts for harmony and invention.

The opening of the Piano Quintet, for example, is near the top of my Top-10 list of the most memorable and gloriously beautiful beginnings of a work ever written, and the playing of it, first by the ensemble’s cellist, Sandy Wilson, and then taken up in bar 61 by violinist Zakarias Grafilo, is of such nuanced phrasing, modulated dynamics, and emotional expressiveness that it will take your breath away. And Joyce Yang’s easeful triplets are the downy pillow on which the melody lays its head. … I find it so special that in the not too distant future, I hope to enter it in Fanfare’s Classical Hall of Fame.”

JERRY DUBINS, FANFARE MAGAZINE (Sept. 2019, Dvořák — Locale, FCL2020

“…the ‘American’ quartet is clearly one of the finest ever recorded.”

LYNN RENE BAYLEY, ART MUSIC LOUNGE (Aug. 2019, Dvořák — Locale, FCL2020

“I first encountered the pairing of the Alexander Quartet with Joyce Yang in a release from 2014 of the Schumann and Brahms quintets which absolutely bowled me over and became one of my Records of the Year. … Since that release, she has joined the Alexanders, or at least three of them, in the Mozart quartets to acclaim. … I’m pleased to report that the partnership with Joyce Yang, so persuasive in Brahms and Schumann, is equally so in the Quintet. From the first, the effect is electric; the hairs on the back of my neck standing up almost throughout.”


Apotheosis Vol. 2 — Mozart Piano Quartets (FCL 2018)

Mozart: The Final Quartets - Aptheosis, Vol. 1

“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.”

JERRY DUBINS, FANFARE MAGAZINE (Apotheosis, vol. 2 — Mozart: The Piano Quartets, FCL2018)

Patagón — works by Cindy Cox (FCL 2015)

Cindy Cox: Patagón

“You want the short review? This is the best new music disc I have heard this year, and you should buy it. … Cox seems to have a thing for quartet writing, and if she stops at two, it will be a tragedy. Color, exquisite rhythmic turns, evocative harmonies, and coalescence of melodic invention all conspire to make her music richly rewarding and horizon-expanding. The Alexander plays perfectly, and the Foghorn sound is great. An enthusiastic recommendation!”

(Patagón — Works by Cindy Cox, FCL2015)

Brahms & Schumann Piano Quintets (FCL 2014)

Brahms Schumann Piano Quintets

“I felt then that I had found my perfect recording of these two favourite works. While it remains enjoyable, Joyce Yang and the Alexanders have completely trumped it. Quite how they have managed to find new things to say about such standard repertoire is quite beyond me, but there is something to marvel at around every corner.”

DAVID BARKER, MUSIC WEB INTERNATIONAL (A MusicWeb International Recording of the Year)
(Brahms & Schumann — The Piano Quintets, FCL2014)

Baker’s Dozen Best of 2014

“The talented Alexanders and brilliant Joyce Yang take on two towers of 19th century chamber music, the Brahms Piano Quintet in f Op 34 and the Schumann Piano Quintet in Eb op 44. Frankly any recording that elicits a positive comment about Brahms from me is worth noting. No stodgy, elegant (read dull and technical) readings here, these are gutsy, lively, exciting and maybe even a bit edgy performances. Excellent production, including concise yet informative notes.” 

(Brahms & Schumann: The Piano Quintets, FCL2014)

“I’m not often as bowled over by core repertoire recordings as I was by this one. After handing off the album to a friend, the second opinion came back positive too: “The Alexanders really have a great feel for Brahms,” he said, and then he borrowed all the other ASQ albums I had.”

BRIAN REINHART, MUSIC WEB INTERNATIONAL (A MusicWeb International Recording of the Year)
(Brahms & Schumann — The Piano Quintets, FCL2014)

“Also hailing from San Francisco are the Alexander String Quartet, whose recent Bartók and Shostakovich cycles on the Foghorn Classics label wouldn’t disappoint anyone. They’re joined by violist Toby Appel and cellist David Requiro on a new set of Brahms’s String Quintets and Sextets. There’s no dryness, no heaviness, in readings which exude common sense, warmth and sanity. Impeccably judged tempi, immaculate dynamic control – these are performances to live with, and remind one that Brahms’s music needn’t sound grumpy.”

(Brahms String Quintets and Sextets — 2 CDs, FCL2012)

Brahms String Quintets and Sextets (FCL 2012)

Brahms Quintets and Sextets

“This review is going to be short, because so highly acclaimed is this disc that my opinion isn’t particularly important, if ever it was. Simply put, after delighting the critical establishment with some marvelous Piano Quintets, the Alexander String Quartet and friends turn in an unbelievable set of the Brahms Sextets and Quintets for Strings. Violist Toby Appel joins the Quartet throughout the program and easily reminds me how beautiful an instrument the viola can be. Nor is cellist David Requiro a mere guest artist. Folks, this is what chamber music is about! Deeply moving, highly involved playing is backed by exceptional sound quality that is warm and shows the genuine partnership between the players. … After 30 years, the Alexander String Quartet is demanding that we take a listen, just as after all this time, Brahms can still surprise us. These are deeply personal works in equally personal performances. Don’t miss them.”

(Brahms String Quintets and Sextets — 2 CDs, FCL2012)

Bartók & Kodály Complete Quartets (FCL 2009)

Bartok and Kodaly | Audiophile Audition Five Star Review — “ maybe the best ever of these important works”

“This is an essential recording, maybe the best ever of these important works….they capture every memorable moment of these eight quartets with an authority and finesse virtually unmatched.” 

(Bartók & Kodály: Complete String Quartets — 3 CDs, FCL2009)

Gershwin & Kern (FCL 2008)

Alexander String Gershwin & Kern Cover Art

“…Despite the light quality of the scoring, however, the Alexander Quartet plays them — as they did the Gershwin — with exceptional taste and feeling.” 


“An unusual, interesting disc … worth hearing for the high craft they bring to bear to these pieces — plus, the Porgy and Bess transcriptions are simply wonderful.” 

LYNN RENE BAYLEY, FANFARE (Gershwin & Kern, with “Porgy and Bess” arrangement by Carl Davis; Joan Enric Lluna, Clarinet, FCL2008)

In Friendship: Cano & Brahms Quintets (FCL 2007)

In Friendship

“The CD comes together with an excellent translation of Brahms’ quintet, in which the wind instrument achieves such an integration with the strings that it truly resembles a symphony. The members of the Alexander offer that atmosphere, and a truly delightful sound.” 

(In Friendship: Cano & Brahms Clarinet Quintets; Joan Enric Lluna, Clarinet, FCL2007)

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