Celebrated for their performances of “uncompromising power, intensity and spiritual depth”, the internationally acclaimed Alexander String Quartet will return to Lincoln Hall on Sunday, March 3, 2019 at 2:00 PM. They promise to warm your hearts and lift late-winter spirits with passionate and soulful performances of master chamber works by Mozart, Schumann and Ravel – truly world class music making right here in the Allegheny River Valley.
As a tribute to ARCA’s beloved founder, Patricia Ann Steffee, an encore will be performed with mezzo-soprano Katherine Soroka – Richard Strauss’ Beim Schlafengehen from his Four Last Songs, arranged for String Quartet by ASQ violinist Zakarias Grafilo. This Strauss song was a favorite of Dr. Arthur and Patricia Steffee, as was the Alexander String Quartet. On numerous occasions audience members and donors met the artists after concerts in RiverStone mansion. On Sunday, March 3 after the concert, the audience is invited to enjoy a cake and coffee reception at the back of Lincoln Hall.
Renowned for their recordings of the string quartet and chamber music repertoire, the Alexander String Quartet’s latest CD release on Foghorn Classics features transcriptions of three song cycles by Gustav Mahler, recorded with mezzo soprano Kindra Scharich. Ms. Scharich and the ASQ have also collaborated on Richard Strauss’ Four Last Songs, for whom this transcription was created.
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, and Shostakovich, the quartet’s recordings have won international critical acclaim.
Join us and be inspired by these consummate artists who critics have said “seemed not so much to be playing the music as breathing it.”
Tickets are Adults $25, Members $20 and Students $5. Call to reserve: 724-659-3153 or buy online here.
Alexander String Quartet
Paul Yarbrough, viola Sandy Wilson, cello
Allegheny RiverStone Center for the Arts welcomes back the Alexander String Quartet to perform a chamber music concert of some of the most beloved works of the string quartet literature by Mozart, Ravel and Schumann on Sunday, March 3, 2019 at 2:00 PM in Lincoln Hall. As a tribute to ARCA’s beloved founder, Patricia Ann Steffee, an encore will be performed with mezzo-soprano Katherine Soroka – Richard Strauss’ Beim Schlafengehen from his Four Last Songs. A cake and coffee reception will follow at the back of Lincoln Hall after the concert.
Quartet in E-flat Major, K428 (1783) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791)
I. Allegro non troppo
II. Andante con moto
III. Menuetto & Trio
IV. Allegro Vivace
The String Quartet in E-flat Major is the third of the Haydn Quartets, a set of six quartets he wrote during his first few years in Veinna and later deciated to Joseph Haydn. The first movement is highly chromatic, with the bridge theme in the exposition. The ostentatious dissonances of the opening of the second movement almost have an antique flavor, caused by the collision of semi-tonal ascents and descents. Throughout the third movement, a pedal point in the bass gives the music an entrancing, rustic effect. The last movement can be described as an abridged rondo form.
Quartet in F Major (1903) Maurice Ravel (1875 – 1937)
I. Allegro Moderato – très doux
II. Assez vif – très rythmé
III. Très lent
IV. Vif et agité
Maurice Ravel completed his String Quartet in F Major in early April 1903 at the age of 28. It was premiered in Paris in March the following year. The work follows a four-movement classical structure: the opening movement is in sonata form, presents two themes that occur later in the work; a playful scherzo second movement is followed by a lyrical slow movement. The finale reintroduces themese from the earlier movements and ends the work vigorously. Dedicated to Ravel’s teacher, Gabriel Fauré.
Quartet in A Major, Op. 41, No. 3 (1842) Robert Schumann (1810 – 1856)
I. Andante espressivo – Allegro molto moderato
II. Assai agitato
III. Adagio molto
IV. Allegro molto vivace
The quartets, Op. 41, are Schumann’s only string quartets and were composed after studying the quartets of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. He had sketched some ideas for quartets a few years before 1842 and abandoned them until February of that year. They were first performed on September 13, 1842 as a present for his wife Clara on her 23rdbirthday.
Hailed internationally for their consummate artistry, the Alexander String Quartet is one of the world premier string quartets.
“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)
“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!”
STEPHEN RITTER, AUDIOPHILE AUDITION (5 Star Review! Dec. 2015)
(Patagón — Works by Cindy Cox, FCL2015)
“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)
“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.”
DON CLARK, PICTURES ON SILENCE, “BAKER’S DOZEN BEST OF 2014”
(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)
“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.”
BRIAN WIGMAN, CLASSICAL NET
(Brahms String Quintets and Sextets — 2 CDs, FCL2012)
“Dream-come-true performances from the excellent Alexander String Quartet. As they did during the Haydn Quartet that opened the concert, the players impressed with their sure ensemble, lyricism, accurate pitch, handsome sound and technical fluidity.”
THE BOSTON GLOBE
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THE ALEXANDER STRING QUARTET
Having celebrated 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, and Shostakovich, the quartet’s recordings of the Beethoven cycle (twice), Bartók, and Shostakovich cycle have won international critical acclaim. The quartet has also established itself as an important advocate of new music through over 25 commissions from such composers as Jake Heggie, Cindy Cox, Augusta Read Thomas, Robert Greenberg, Martin Bresnick, Cesar Cano, and Pulitzer Prize-winner Wayne Peterson. A new work by Tarik O’Regan, commissioned for the Alexander by the Boise Chamber Music Series, will have its premiere 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 of 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. They will return to Poland for their debut performances at the Beethoven Easter Festival in 2015.
Among the fine musicians with whom the Alexander String Quartet has collaborated are pianists Joyce Yang, Roger Woodward, Anne-Marie McDermott, Menachem Pressler, and Jeremy Menuhin; clarinetists Joan Enric Lluna, David Shifrin, Richard Stoltzman, and Eli Eban; soprano Elly Ameling; mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato; cellists Lynn Harrell, Sadao Harada, and David Requiro; and jazz greats Branford Marsalis, David Sanchez, and Andrew Speight. The quartet has worked with many composers including Aaron Copland, George Crumb, and Elliott 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 matched quartet of 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 and sextets of Brahms with Toby Appel and David Requiro (“a uniquely detailed, transparent warmth” –Strings Magazine); and the Schumann and Brahms piano quintets with Joyce Yang (“passionate, soulful readings of two pinnacles of the chamber repertory” –The New York Times). Their recording of music of Gershwin and Kern was released in the summer of 2012, following the spring 2012 recording of the clarinet quintet of Brahms and a new quintet from César Cano, in collaboration with Joan Enric Lluna, as well as a disc in collaboration with the San Francisco Choral Artists. Next to be released will be an album of works by Cindy Cox.
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.” The FoghornClassics label released a three-CD set (Homage) of the Mozart quartets dedicated to Haydn in 2004. Foghorn released the a six-CD album (Fragments) 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, 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.