As the Alexander String Quartet celebrates its 43rd Season, it welcomes a new member: violinist Yuna Lee. The foursome will then perform at San Francisco Performances’ Gala Concert on Friday, September 29, 2023, 7:00pm at Herbst Theatre, marking the Alexander String Quartet’s 35th Anniversary as the Ensemble-in-Residence with San Francisco Performances

Ms. Lee succeeds Fred Lifsitz, who retired from the group earlier this year. 

“The Alexander String Quartet could not be more excited to welcome Yuna Lee to the group. Yuna is a wonderful musician and a truly delightful human being,” said David Samuel, violist. “As a Bay Area local, she also shares a deep connection with the region and will be a huge asset as we endeavor to grow our work in the community. We know that audiences are going to love her playing as much as we do, and we look forward to many concerts and other adventures together for years to come!” 

“I am thrilled and honored to be joining the Alexander String Quartet,” said Ms. Lee. “I look forward to continuing the work of the ensemble’s remarkable legacy and seeing where our shared passion leads as we embark on our 43rd season.” 

Yuna Lee photo with violin on stool

About Yuna Lee

Yuna Lee has made San Francisco her home since 2010, performing and touring with the San Francisco Symphony as well as presenting chamber music concerts all over the Bay Area. Prior to her move to California, Ms. Lee played with the Saint Louis Symphony and served as Concertmaster at the New World Symphony in Miami Beach, FL where she also appeared as a soloist. In addition, she has performed as a member of The Knights Chamber Orchestra in New York City.

Ms. Lee co-founded the Phaedrus String Quartet in 1999 along with violinist Ilya Gringolts and as a member of that ensemble, she performed internationally at high-profile concerts including the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, La Jolla SummerFest, Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, and alongside Nicolas Angelich, Yuri Bashmet, and Joshua Bell at the Verbier Festival.

Ms. Lee received her early musical training at New England Conservatory in Boston with Bo Hwang where she served as Concertmaster of both the Youth Philharmonic Orchestra and Tanglewood Young Artist’s Orchestra. She went on to pursue her B.M. and M.M. at the Juilliard School in New York where her principal teachers were Cho-Liang Lin and Naoko Tanaka. She has studied chamber music with members of the Guarneri, Emerson, Juilliard, and Tokyo String Quartets.

About Alexander String Quartet

Alexander String Quartet sitting on bench with instrument cases in front. L-R: Zakarias Grafilo, David Samuel, Yuna Lee, Sandy Wilson
©Martyn Selman

The Alexander String Quartet stands among the world’s premier ensembles, having performed in the major music capitals of five continents. The quartet is a vital artistic presence in its home base of San Francisco, serving since 1989 as Ensemble in Residence of San Francisco Performances. Widely admired for its interpretations of Beethoven, Mozart, and Shostakovich, the quartet’s recordings have won international critical acclaim. Founded in New York City in 1981, the ensemble quickly captured attention, initially winning the Concert Artists Guild Competition in 1982, and then becoming the first American quartet to win the London (now Wigmore) International String Quartet Competition in 1985. The members of the Alexander String Quartet are recipients of honorary degrees from Allegheny College and St. Lawrence University, and Presidential medals from Baruch College (CUNY).

Since its inception, the Alexander String Quartet has maintained an unyielding and passionate commitment to education. 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. The 2023-24 season marks the beginning of a new initiative that brings together the quartet’s expertise in education and devotion to its community. Partnering with schools, arts organizations, and community institutions in the Bay Area and beyond, the Alexander String Quartet will be hosting a series of innovative workshops, performances and collaborations that are designed to support and bolster chamber music awareness and education for individuals from all walks of life.

The Alexander String Quartet has performed at Lincoln Center, the 92nd Street Y, the Metropolitan Museum, Jordan Hall, the Library of Congress, and appeared as guests at universities including Yale, Princeton, Stanford, Lewis & Clark, UCLA, and many more. Numerous overseas tours include 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 visit to Poland’s Beethoven Easter Festival is beautifully captured in the 2017 award-winning documentary, Con Moto: The Alexander String Quartet.

Joyce Yang, Marc-André Hamelin, Richard Stoltzman, Joyce DiDonato, Midori, Lynn Harrell, Branford Marsalis, David Sánchez, Jake Heggie, Augusta Read Thomas, Tarik O’Regan, Wayne Peterson, and Samuel Carl Adams are only a few 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 quartet continues to enjoy a long-standing collaboration with the richly entertaining composer-lecturer, Robert Greenberg, with whom it presents series of concerts every season with San Francisco Performances and at the Mondavi Center at the University of California in Davis. These concerts provide a deep dive into the history and essence of the works being presented in addition to a full performance of each piece.

Recording for the Foghorn Classics label, the Alexander String Quartet’s extensive recording catalogue includes complete string quartet cycles by Bartók, Beethoven, Brahms, Kodály, and Shostakovich. Their most recent release is the third installment of a Mozart chamber music project, “Apotheosis Volume 3,” featuring the string quintets of Mozart with violist Paul Yarbrough. Apotheosis Volumes 1 & 2, released in 2018 and 2019, featured the late string quartets and piano quartets (with Joyce Yang) of Mozart. Both recordings received critical acclaim (“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.” –Fanfare). 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 catalogue also includes the Mahler Song Cycles in transcriptions for mezzo-soprano (with Kindra Scharich) and string quartet by the Quartet’s first violinist, Zakarias Grafilo.

The Alexander String Quartet performs on Michael Fischer and unlabeled circa 1800 Italian violins, a Hiroshi Iizuka viola, and a Francis M. Kuttner cello. They have also had the distinct honor on numerous occasions to record and perform on a matched set of instruments known as the Ellen M. Egger Quartet, made in San Francisco by the late Francis M. Kuttner.

Zakarias Grafilo, violin
Yuna Lee, violin
David Samuel, viola
Sandy Wilson, cello 

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