Ensemble Magazine has a wonderful feature of our new Brahms & Schumann: The Piano Quintets recording with Joyce Yang. Below is an English translation of the German review:
The Alexander String Quartet is particularly renowned for having helped build and establish numerous young and emerging professional string quartets at San Francisco’s State University yet unfortunately, it remains comparatively uncelebrated in Europe. Nevertheless there can hardly be a more stable or industrious string quartet in the USA. Founded in NYC in 1981, this was the first string quartet ever to win the Concert Artists Guild Award in 1982, going on to win the London International String Quartet Competition in 1985. There are perhaps some chamber music aficionados who will recall their recordings of the Beethoven Cycle on the BMG Arte Nova label dating from 1999 but in the meantime the Alexander String Quartet has been anything but idle. Performing as many as ten concerts a month primarily in the USA, the group has recorded no less than one CD every year on their own label FoghornClassics.com which they founded in 1994. They have no fewer than 17 CD titles on 33 discs that currently document the broad and diverse repertoire that is embraced by this ensemble.
Their newest release offers the piano quintets of Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms featuring the ASQ with the young Korean-born pianist, Joyce Yang. The astonishing 27 year-old Yang who trained at the Juilliard School of Music, first established her estimable credentials by winning the Silver Medal at the USA’s Van Cliburn Competition in 2005.
This new recording reveals two distinct qualities in equal balance that may perhaps be lacking among some of the current European alternatives. First is their ability to play with astonishing quietness yet combined, secondly with the ability to forcefully underscore and project phrasing with astounding transparency of texture. Curiously one is reminded of the tradition among the grand American quartets, inspired by Russian musicianship – yielding a distinctive, unique identity. The Alexander String Quartet emerges here as a synthesis of both the American sound-esthetic mixed with the European tradition. It’s exactly this particular combination of characteristics that make this new release so impresively vital and exciting. This, together with the virtuosic pianism of the young Joyce Yang superimposed into the string sonority is irresistible. The resulting blend is almost symphonic which is exactly what these works crave. The stunning instrumental ability of these musicians make this fascinating release so compelling. It is just unfortunate that this “in-house” label of the ASQ is currently only accessible in Europe through the Internet.” —Carsten Durer