Alexander String Quartet
Photo by Martyn Selman

Founded in New York City in 1981, the Alexander String Quartet established itself as one of the world’s premier ensembles after winning the 1982 Concert Artists Guild Competition and then becoming the first American quartet to win the Wigmore (then Portsmouth) International String Quartet Competition in 1985. After a remarkable 44-year tenure, Spring 2025 will bring the retirement of the quartet, following a final, celebratory season.

“We look forward to our final season, in which we will be revisiting several festive gatherings with some of our favorite and esteemed musical friends – both artists and presenters alike. We are fortunate to be able to cherish and share so many happy memories, gathered over more than four decades of collaborative music-making,” says the quartet’s founding cellist Sandy Wilson.

Highlights of the 2024-25 Season will include a return to the Ludwig van Beethoven Easter Festival in Poland, as well as final residencies with San Francisco Performances, the Mondavi Center, and St. Lawrence University.

The Alexander String Quartet currently comprises violinists Zakarias Grafilo and Yuna Lee, violist David Samuel, and founding cellist Sandy Wilson. After the 2024-25 Season, all members will continue to perform and teach, carrying forward the legacy of the quartet as an ensemble dedicated to music education.

Mentoring the next generation of chamber musicians and chamber music lovers has long been central to the Alexander String Quartet, and the ensemble’s educational work won them honorary doctoral degrees from St Lawrence University and Allegheny College, and Presidential Medals from Baruch College (CUNY). For decades, the ensemble has trained generations of gifted performers, emerging string quartets, and talented young musicians destined to pass on their knowledge and love of music as teachers in schools across the globe. Over the ensemble’s 44-year tenure, they have served as quartet-in-residence with St. Lawrence University, Allegheny College, Baruch College (CUNY), and San Francisco State University, as well as San Francisco Performances and the Mondavi Center, where they presented an educational series with composer Robert Greenberg.

“I have known the Alexander String Quartet since 1986,” says composer, music historian, and pianist Robert Greenberg. “They have been performing my music since 1988, and we have shared the stage and performed programs together continuously since 1992. Very simply, personally and professionally, my relationship with the ASQ has been the single highpoint of my musical life. They are a magnificent quartet. But much more, they are – and have always been, individually – magnificent people.”

The mentorship legacy of the quartet includes fostering the Afiara Quartet, Del Sol Quartet, Hausmann Quartet, Sausalito Quartet, and the Tower Quartet, as well as countless other young musicians who have continued their careers in chamber music, orchestral performance and teaching.

“The ASQ has had a profound impact on generations of young musicians and ensembles across the US and abroad,” said David Samuel, current violist and founding member of the Afiara Quartet. “When we founded the Afiara Quartet in 2006, it was a direct result of the support, mentorship, and opportunities afforded us by the ASQ which opened the door for us to enjoy such an artistically and professionally rewarding career.”

The Alexander String Quartet has performed at Lincoln Center, the 92nd Street Y, the Metropolitan Museum, Jordan Hall, and the Library of Congress, as well as numerous overseas tours, including the U.K., the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, France, Greece, the Republic of Georgia, Argentina, Panamá, and the Philippines. Their 2015 visit to Poland’s Ludwig van Beethoven Easter Festival was beautifully captured in the award-winning documentary, Con Moto: The Alexander String Quartet.

Samuel Carl Adams, Elliott Carter, Aaron Copland, George Crumb, Joyce DiDonato, Marc- André Hamelin, Lynn Harrell, Jake Heggie, Branford Marsalis, Midori, Tarik O’Regan, Wayne Peterson, David Sánchez, Richard Stoltzman, Augusta Read Thomas, and Joyce Yang are just some of the many distinguished instrumentalists, singers, and composers with whom the Alexander String Quartet has collaborated in performance and recording projects crossing genres from classical to jazz, rock, and folk in its more than four decades of music making. Their most recent collaborative project, “British Invasion,” brings the Quartet together with guitarist William Kanengiser to explore the music of Sting, Led Zeppelin, John Dowland, and the Beatles by way of contemporary composers Ian Krouse, Dušan Bogdanović, and Leo Brouwer.

The Alexander String Quartet founded, and will continue, the Foghorn Classics label, on which it has released an extensive recording catalog. Their recordings have included the complete string quartet cycles by Bartók, Beethoven, Brahms, Kodály, and Shostakovich, and a series of Mozart’s chamber music entitled “Apotheosis” in collaboration with Paul Yarbrough and Joyce Yang. Other major recordings include the 2020 release of the Mozart and Brahms clarinet quintets (with Eli Eban) and the 2019 release, “Locale,” featuring Dvořák’s “American” quartet and piano quintet (with Joyce Yang). Their recording catalog also includes Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden GesellenRückert-Lieder, and Kindertotenlieder song cycles in transcriptions for mezzo-soprano (with Kindra Scharich) and string quartet by the Quartet’s first violinist, Zakarias Grafilo. The quartet’s discography has helped to preserve the legacy of a matched set of instruments known as the Ellen M. Egger Quartet, made in San Francisco by the late Francis M. Kuttner.

The ensemble would especially like to thank Aaron and Freda Silberman and Family for their enduring support.

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