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The Alexander String Quartet is heading to Poland

Krakow "Cloth Hall"

Krakow “Cloth Hall”

The Alexander String Quartet is heading to Poland next month — only our second visit ever to this eastern European gem and a trip to which we look forward with great anticipation.

Poland is curiously more similar in size and population to our home state of California than any other western European country. It is also enjoying a surging economy albeit just a quarter the size of California’s own, but citing Joe Matthew’s recent commentary in the San Francisco Chronicle, “Poland’s investment in infrastructure and education is exemplary, dwarfing California’s efforts in similar areas.” By happy coincidence as we began to anticipate this exciting trip, we learnt almost a year ago, that our home town of San Francisco is twinned with Krakow, our European “Sister City.” Although the grand finale of the two week tour will wind-up with two collaborative concerts in Warsaw’s Royal Palace, we’ll get to begin with several days in Krakow where we’ll play two programs at the legendary renaissance Sukiennice. Better known to tourists as the Cloth Hall (similar to Leipzig’s Gewandhaus’s reputation) in the Main Market Square, it is home to Poland’s National Museum and in addition to a vibrant shopping center, it also hosts some of Poland’s most exceptional works of 19th century art.

Royal Castle of Warsaw

Royal Castle of Warsaw

Of very particular interest to the ASQ in Krakow is the fact that Beethoven’s manuscripts for both the Op. 131 and 132 Late Quartets are in repository at the famed Jagiellonian University Library. Thankfully, the XIXth Annual Beethoven Easter Festival, which is our host for this entire tour, has arranged for special exhibition privileges during our visit to Krakow. This could scarcely be more exciting for the ASQ, which has performed the entire cycle of Beethoven’s Quartets many times over more than three decades and recorded them all twice, for both BMG and most recently, for FoghornClassics.com Both Op. 131 and 132 are programmed for our concert presentations in Krakow, along with Mozart, some early Beethoven, Shostakovich and Brahms quartets. Op. 131 and 132 will also be featured later during the tour which will also incorporate performances in Rzeszow and Gdansk and culminate in a pair of festive performances in Warsaw’s Royal Castle within the full context of the Easter Beethoven Festival. The ASQ particularly looks forward to collaborations in Warsaw with some of our most distinguished and favorite fellow musicians in quintets by Brahms with clarinetist Joan Enric Lluna and pianist Boris Berman.

During our sojourn in Krakow, we will certainly be visiting Krakow’s Academy of Music where we eagerly anticipate a masterclass with a half dozen of their finest student ensembles as well offering some open rehearsals at the local JCC. We will also visit the Polish-American High School among other institutions — all in close collaboration with the US Consulate in Krakow which is assisting in the coordination of our activities in this remarkable twinned Sister-City Celebration with San Francisco.

We also look forward to masterclasses at the conservatory in Gdansk where we also plan to make time to visit some of the most stimulating cultural attractions along the way, including the Solidariyy Museum in Gdansk. In the same vein, we eagerly anticipate a visit to the newly opened Museum of the Jewish People in Warsaw.

It’s particularly gratifying that we will be accompanied on this two week trip by a team of documentary film-makers from the celebrated DocFilm Institute from our home institution of SFSU’s College of Liberal and Creative Arts

The Ellen M. Egger Quartet

The Ellen M. Egger Quartet

A particular feature that we eagerly look forward to on this tour is that the ASQ will perform on an exclusive quartet of matched modern instruments made by the San Francisco/Cremona based luthier Francis Kuttner. Francis, besides many more in the interim, has crafted a superb quartet of instruments known now as the Ellen M. Egger Quartet in honor of the late dedicatee. The ASQ has been privileged for many years to perform and record regularly on this exceptional quartet of instruments, made in 1986. We are particularly pleased to be able to perform these important programs in Poland on this uniquely celebrated set of San Francisco manufactured instruments. It is also of note that in addition to Kuttner, the maker of ALL of the ASQ’s ultra modern bows, Berndt Müsing, founder of the ARCUS company will also be on hand during this exciting visit to Poland. Müsing’s bows, like Kuttner’s instruments have all be featured exclusively on the Alexander String Quartet’s extensive catalogue of recordings for Foghorn Classics over the past dozen years

We look forward enormously to this exciting trip. We are particularly happy and proud to have have received very welcome support toward the Quartet’s travel from (USAI) US Artists International, administered by the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation. USArtists International is made possible through support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

— Beethoven is paving the way once again —

Classical Concert Series Review

Alexander String QuartetThe Classical Voice of North Carolina‘s William Thomas Walker reviews our Southern Pines, North Carolina concert:

“Everything must be exactly right in Mozart, and the Alexander Quartet delivered the goods in spades. Intonation was perfect, and the phrasing was superb. Balance among and between instruments was fine. Wilson brought a glowing, warm tone to the extensive cello parts. … The extensive experience of the Alexander Quartet musicians was evident in every phase of their performance. They have issued two separate complete Beethoven cycles on CD. The intensity and inevitability of their playing was breathtaking. Rhythms were rock solid, and every note was in place within a well-considered overview. … First violinist Grafilo played the many extended violin solos brilliantly with marvelous warmth of tone. The plangent voice of Yarborough’s viola was a delight, as were solid low notes of Wilson’s cello. This was an extraordinarily effective performance.” —William Thomas Walker, Classical Voice of North Carolina

Read the full review at CVNC.org

Konk Life Concert Review

Roughing it in the Keys in 2014!Harry Schroeder says our Impromptu Concert Series performance of Beethoven Quartets was “as good as it could be played” in a review for Konk Life:

“This concert was about as good as chamber music can be. The group fully deserved the long standing ovation, complete with cheers, at the end. Many years ago, Yehudi Menuhin commented about one of this group’s performances: “It was unbelievably good Beethoven — in conception, musicality, balance of voices, respect for the score, humor, pathos, emotional projection. There was absolutely nothing that was missing.” The same was true on Sunday.” —Harry Schroeder, Konk Life

Read the full review on Konknet.com

ASQ Heads to Florida!

The Alexander String Quartet starts February with a series in the Florida Keys!

Sunday
February 1, 2015
4:00 pm
Impromptu Classical Concerts
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church of Key West
Key West, Florida

Tel: (305) 296-1520
Web: www.keywestimpromptu.org

Program:
Beethoven Quartet in D Major, Op. 18 No. 3
Beethoven Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 127
Beethoven
Quartet in F Major, Op. 59 No. 1, “Rasumovsky”


Monday
February 2, 2015
7:30 pm
Florida Keys Concert Association: Beethoven String Quartet Cycle – Season II
Florida Keys Concerts
Marathon High School Performing Arts Center
Marathon, Florida

Tel: (305) 451-0665
Web: www.floridakeysconcerts.com

Program:
Beethoven Quartet in G Major, Op. 18 No. 2
Beethoven Quartet in
E-flat Major, Op. 74, “Harp”
Beethoven
Quartet in C-sharp Minor, Op. 131


Tuesday
February 3, 2015
7:30 pm
Florida Keys Concert Association: Beethoven String Quartet Cycle – Season II
Florida Keys Concerts
Island Community Church
Islamorada, Florida

Tel: (305) 451-0665
Web: www.floridakeysconcerts.com

Program:
Beethoven Quartet in F Major, Op. 18 No. 1
Beethoven Quartet in
B-flat Major, Op. 130 with the Grosse Fuge, Op. 133

Roughing it in the Keys in 2014!

Roughing it in the Keys in 2014!

2014 Record Review Recap!

Help us close out 2014 with a look back at what critics were saying about our two releases featuring Brahms and Schumann:

Brahms: The String Quintets and SextetsBrahms: The String Quintets and Sextets

Purchase:

iTunes Foghorn Classics Amazon

Brahms & Schumann: The Piano Quintets (Joyce Yang)

Brahms Schumann Piano Quintets

Purchase

iTunes Foghorn Classics Amazon

Brahms a Best of 2014

Brahms: The String Quintets and SextetsThe Arts Desk‘s Graham Rickson names his Best Classical CDs of 2014 and our Brahms: The String Quintets and Sextets makes the cut!

“Also hailing from San Francisco are the Alexander String Quartet, whose recent Bartok 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.” —Graham Rickson, The Arts Desk

See the Full List

Purchase:

iTunes Foghorn Classics Amazon

Two ASQ Recordings Named Best of 2014!

Pictures on Silence critic, Don Clark, has released his “Baker’s Dozen Best Recordings of 2014” list and included our Brahms & Schumann: The Piano Quintets and Bartók & Kodály: The Complete String Quartets recordings!

Brahms Schumann Piano Quintets

Brahms & Schumann: The Piano Quintets

“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.”

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

Bartók & Kodály: The Complete String Quartets

“While we have the excellent Alexanders in front of us, mention must be made of this always intelligent, intense, musical, satisfying and well recorded set. Add this to the list of recordings that challenge and maybe surpass the classic Julliard recording of the Bartók cycle. Combine the fine and less well known Kodály quartets and you have a special release indeed.”

See the full list at Pictures on Silence!

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