Internationally recognized as one of the world’s finest quartets, the American String Quartet has spent decades honing the luxurious sound for which it is famous. The Quartet will celebrate its 45th anniversary in 2019, and, in its years of touring, has performed in all fifty states and has appeared in the most important concert halls worldwide. The group’s presentations of the complete quartets of Beethoven, Schubert, Schoenberg, Bartók, and Mozart have won widespread critical acclaim, and their MusicMasters Complete Mozart String Quartets, performed on a matched quartet set of instruments by Stradivarius, are widely considered to have set the standard for this repertoire.
The Quartet’s 2018-19 season features additional performances of their major project together with the National Book Award-winning author Phil Klay and the poet Tom Sleigh, which offers a groundbreaking program combining music and readings that examines the effects of war on people, their hearts, and their minds. The Quartet will also collaborate again with the renowned author Salman Rushdie in a work for narrator and quartet by the film composer Paul Cantelon built around Rushdie’s novel The Enchantress of Florence. These tremendously imaginative projects cement the American String Quartet’s reputation as one of the most adventurous and fearless string quartets performing today, as comfortable with the groundbreaking as with the traditional.
The Quartet’s diverse activities have also included numerous international radio and television broadcasts, including a recent recording for the BBC; tours of Asia; and performances with the New York City Ballet, the Montreal Symphony, and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Recent highlights include performances of an all-sextet program with Roberto and Andrès Díaz, many tours of South America, and performances of the complete Beethoven cycle of string quartets at the Cervantes Festival in Mexico and the Tel Aviv Museum in Israel.
The American’s additional extensive discography can be heard on the Albany, CRI, MusicMasters, Musical Heritage Society, Nonesuch, and RCA labels. Most recently the group released “Schubert’s Echo,” which pairs Schubert’s monumental last quartet with works bearing its influence by Second Viennese masters Alban Berg and Anton Webern. This repertoire posits that the creative line from the First to the Second Viennese Schools is continuous – and evident when these works are heard in the context of each other.
As champions of new music, the American has given numerous premieres, including George Tsontakis’s 2015 Quartet No. 7.5, “Maverick,” Richard Danielpour’s Quartet No. 4, and Curt Cacioppo’s a distant voice calling. The premiere of Robert Sirota’s American Pilgrimage took place in September 2016, and will be performed around the U.S. in the cities the work celebrates. In January 2009 the Quartet premièred Tobias Picker’s String Quartet No. 2 in New York City in celebration of the 90th anniversary of the Manhattan School of Music.
Formed when its original members were students at The Juilliard School, the American String Quartet’s career began with the group winning both the Coleman Competition and the Naumburg Award in the same year. Resident quartet at the Aspen Music Festival since 1974 and at the Manhattan School of Music in New York since 1984, the American has also served as resident quartet at the Taos School of Music, the Peabody Conservatory, and the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.
June 2018 – Please do not edit without permission.
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The American String Quartet has teamed up with the writer Phil Klay - who won the National Book Award for Redeployment in 2014 - and the poet Tom Sleigh to present a program called “Lyric in the Time of War.” Phil is a former U.S. Marine who served in Iraq, and Tom has reported on the bloody conflicts in Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, and Libya. The program combines music written in response to war together with Phil and Tom reading excerpts from their work. In a particularly moving presentation, the American performs Shostakovich's Quartet No. 8 while Tom reads a related poem in between each movement. This program offers two perspectives on war; it acknowledges the hardships while recognizing and celebrating the sacrifices made by our veterans.
The American String Quartet joins vocal superstar Stephanie Blythe in a program featuring music by Haydn, Respighi, Weill, and Schubert.
Mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe is considered to be one of the most highly respected and critically acclaimed artists of her generation. She has sung in many of the renowned opera houses in the US and Europe including the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Seattle Opera, Royal Opera House Covent Garden, and the Opera National de Paris.
In a one-of-a-kind performance, the iconic American String Quartet performs a work by film composer Paul Cantelon built around Salman Rushdie’s novel The Enchantress of Florence, with the author reading excerpts from his book between movements. The Quartet will also perform two masterpieces by Schubert: Quartettsatz and “Death and the Maiden.”
Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University, Salman Rushdie has received numerous honors including the Whitbread Prize for Best Novel, the Writers’ Guild Award, the London International Writer’s Award, and the James Joyce Award. Rushdie is a Fellow of the British Royal Society of Literature as well as Commandeur in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres – France’s highest artistic honor. The Enchantress of Florence was released to critical acclaim in 2008 with The Guardian raving, “Rushdie’s sumptuous mixture of history and fable is magnificent.”
The American String Quartet offers a blockbuster program featuring beloved sextets by Strauss, Brahms, and Tchaikovsky together with their longtime friends Roberto and Andrés Díaz. This program has been performed widely throughout North and South America over the past few years.
The American String Quartet offers a collaboration together with the New York Philharmonic’s Principal Harpist, Nancy Allen. The five perform some of the great works for string quartet and harp:
Mozart: Adagio and Rondo, K. 617
Ludwig Van Beethoven: Quartet in E-flat major, Op. 74, "Harp"
Tournier: Féerie - Prélude et danse (harp & string quartet version)
Debussy: Danse sacrée et danse profane
Debussy: String Quartet in G minor, Op. 10
Hailed by The New York Times as "a major artist" following her New York recital debut, Nancy Allen joined the New York Philharmonic in June of 1999 as Principal Harpist. She maintains a busy international concert schedule as well as heading the harp departments of The Juilliard School, Yale School of Music, and the Aspen Music Festival and School.
2019-2020 Program Choices
Mozart: Quartet in E-flat major, K. 428
Vivian Fung: New Work OR Bartók: Quartet No. 3
Schubert: Quartet in D minor, D. 810, “Death and the Maiden”
Program II: Beethoven Mini Cycle
Quartet in C minor, Op. 18, No. 4
Quartet in E-flat major, Op. 74
Quartet in B-flat major, Op. 130, with Grosse Fugue, Op. 133
Haydn: Quartet in E-flat major, Op. 33, No. 2, “The Joke”
Brahms: Quartet in B-flat major, Op. 67
Debussy: Quartet in G minor