Zakarias Grafilo, Frederick Lifsitz, Paul Yarbrough, and Sandy Wilson. Photo credit Rory Earnshaw.
The Alexander String Quartet has performed in the major music capitals of five continents, securing its standing among the world’s premier ensembles over nearly three decades. Widely admired for its interpretations of Beethoven, Mozart, and Shostakovich, the Quartet has also established itself as an important advocate of new music through over 25 commissions and numerous premiere performances.
The many distinguished artists to collaborate with the Alexander String Quartet include pianists Menahem Pressler, Gary Graffman, Roger Woodward, Jeremy Menuhin, and Joyce Yang; clarinetists Eli Eban, Charles Neidich, Joan Enric Lluna, and Richard Stolzman; cellists Lynn Harrell, Sadao Harada, and David Requiro; violist Toby Appel; and soprano Elly Ameling. Among the quartet’s more unusual collaborations has been numerous performances of Eddie Sauter’s seminal Third Stream work, Focus, in collaboration with Branford Marsalis, David Sánchez, and Andrew Speight.
Over the past decade the Alexander String Quartet has added considerably to its distinguished and wide-ranging discography. Currently recording exclusively for the FoghornClassics label, the Alexander’s most recent release (June 2009) is a complete Beethoven cycle. Music Web International has described the performances on this new Beethoven set as “uncompromising in their power, intensity and spiritual depth,” while Strings Magazine described the set as “a landmark journey through the greatest of all quartet cycles.”
Highlights of the 2010–2011 season include a two multiple concert series for San Francisco Performances, one presenting the complete quartets of Bartók and Kodály and the other music of Dvořák; the conclusion of a Beethoven cycle for Mondavi Center; and a continuing annual series at Baruch College in New York City. The quartet also performs an all-Beethoven program at the Lied Center of Kansas, two tours of Spain (including the inaugural performances of a new festival in Godella), and a second tour of Argentina. They also continue their annual residencies at Allegheny College, Lewis & Clark College, and St. Lawrence University.
The Alexander String Quartet was formed in New York City in 1981 and the following year became the first string quartet to win the Concert Artists Guild Competition. In 1985, the quartet captured international attention as the first American quartet to win the London International String Quartet Competition, receiving both the jury’s highest award and the Audience Prize.
The Quartet is a major artistic presence in its home base of San Francisco, serving there as directors of the Morrison Chamber Music Center at the School of Music and Dance in the College of Creative Arts at San Francisco State University and Ensemble in Residence of San Francisco Performances.
The Alexander String Quartet performs on the Ellen M. Egger Quartet of instruments, built in 1987 by the American maker Francis Kuttner.