Britten: String Quartet No. 3, Op. 94

In 1973 Benjamin Britten—frail and facing a heart operation— composed his final opera, Death in Venice. Based on Thomas Mann’s 1913 novella, the opera summed up many of the themes of Britten’s artistic career: as the aging novelist Aschenbach embarks on a quest for spiritual redemption in a city assaulted by the plague, he is…

Shostakovich Quartet No. 8 in C Minor, Opus 110

In the summer of 1960 Shostakovich went to Dresden, where he was to write a score for the film Five Days, Five Nights, a joint East German and Soviet production. The devastation of Dresden by Allied bombing in 1945—the event that drove Kurt Vonnegut to write Slaughterhouse Five—was still evident in 1960, and it stunned…

Mozart Festival at Baruch College

The Baruch Performing Arts Center (BPAC) presents the Alexander String Quartet in two concerts, Wednesday, May 3 and Friday, May 5 while the Aaron Silberman Concert Series presents a Community Preview Matinee on Thursday, May 4. Each evening showcases BPAC’s quartet-in-residence performing two all-Mozart programs along with Cliburn silver-medalist Joyce Yang. On Wednesday, May 3,…

Announcing a Chamber Music Workshop and Retreat

Announcing a Chamber Music Workshop & Retreat With the Alexander String Quartet String Quartet masterpieces of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven September 7-10, 2017 Ratna Ling Retreat Center (Sonoma County, CA) The Apollo Academy for Health and Humanism The Apollo Academy for Health and Humanism has put together a unique weekend: A chamber music intensive (for…

William Walton String Quartet No. 2

Walton spent World War II writing film scores, including the music to Henry V (he had originally wanted to serve as an ambulance driver, but after he landed several ambulances in the ditch, the government decided that he would be more useful as a composer). In the summer of 1945, months after the end of…

Bartók String Quartet No. 6

One of the paramount qualities of the Bartók quartets as a series is that—like Beethoven’s—they exemplify growth. The problems and possibilities of string quartet writing are not of the kind that imply a single solution, no matter how perfect, nor a single form, no matter how refined. With the composition of the Sixth Quartet, then,…

Shostakovich Quartet No. 6 in G Major, Opus 101

Shostakovich’s sudden re-marriage in the summer of 1956 caught even his closest friends by surprise. His first wife, the physicist Nina Varzar, had died suddenly in December 1954, and eighteen months later the shy composer impulsively proposed to a pretty young party official, Margarita Kainova. She just as impulsively accepted, and they were married in…

Shostakovich Quartet No. 5 in B-flat Major, Opus 92

Shostakovich wrote his Fifth String Quartet in the fall of 1952, but it remained in manuscript, unperformed, for over a year—and for very good reasons. Not only were these some of the darkest years of the Cold War, they were also the paranoid final years of Stalin’s repressive regime. Four years earlier, at the 1948…

Looking ahead to March 2017

The Alexander String Quartet is looking ahead to a busy March schedule filled with exciting performances from coast-to-coast! Saturday March 4, 2017 10:00 am Shostakovich String Quartet Cycle San Francisco Performances Inc. Herbst Theatre San Francisco, CaliforniaTel: (415) 398-6449 Web: performances.org Program: ASQ with lecturer, Robert Greenberg Shostakovich Quartet No. 5 in B-flat Major, Op….

Shostakovich Quartet No. 4 in D Major, Opus 83

The Soviet crackdown on composers in February 1948 remains, over half a century later, one of the most devastating examples of government interference and censorship in history. Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Khachaturian, Miaskovsky, and others were excoriated for their “formalistic distortions and anti-democratic tendencies” and for writing “confused, neuropathological combinations which transform music into cacophony.” These composers…

Shostakovich Quartet No. 3 in F Major, Opus 73

The Third String Quartet was Shostakovich’s only composition during the year 1946. He dedicated it to the members of the Beethoven Quartet, who gave the first performance in Moscow on their namesake’s 176th birthday, December 16, 1946. The mention of Beethoven is apt, for many observers have felt that this quartet, particularly in its heartfelt…

Shostakovich Quartet No. 2, in A Major, Op. 68

The works Shostakovich composed during World War II—or, as the Russians call it, The Great Patriotic War—form a distinct chapter in his output. These include the wartime music one might expect—marches, choruses, and even settings of songs of Russia’s allies (including, in 1943, an arrangement of When Johnny Comes Marching Home)—but Shostakovich made his major…