The Grammy Award-winning Ying Quartet occupies a position of unique prominence in the classical music world, combining brilliantly communicative performances with a fearlessly imaginative view of chamber music in today's world. Now in its third decade, the Quartet has established itself as an ensemble of the highest musical qualifications. Their performances regularly take place in many of the world's most important concert halls; at the same time, the Quartet's belief that concert music can also be a meaningful part of everyday life has also drawn the foursome to perform in settings as diverse as the workplace, schools, juvenile prisons, and the White House. In fact, the Ying Quartet's constant quest to explore the creative possibilities of the string quartet has led it to an unusually diverse array of musical projects and interests.
The Ying's ongoing LifeMusic commissioning project, created in response to their commitment to expanding the rich string quartet repertoire, has already achieved an impressive history. Supported by the Institute for American Music, the Ying Quartet commissions both established and emerging composers to create music that reflects contemporary American life. Recent works include Billy Childs’ Awakening; Lera Auerbach’s Sylvia’s Diary; Lowell Liebermann’s String Quartet No. 3, To the Victims of War; Sebastian Currier’s Next Atlantis; and John Novacek’s Three Rags for String Quartet. In August 2016 the Ying Quartet released a new Schumann/ Beethoven recording on Sono Luminus with the cellist Zuill Bailey, and in 2016-17 the five toured with the Schumann Cello Concerto transcribed for cello and string quartet along with Beethoven’s “Kreutzer Sonata,” also reimagined for cello quintet.
The Quartet’s 2018-19 season featured performances with the jazz pianist Billy Childs, a tour of China, performances for the Philadelphia and Phoenix Chamber Music Societies, and performances in the group’s role as quartet-in-residence at the Bowdoin International Music Festival, while 2019-20 sees the Quartet returning to the Los Angeles’s Clark Library, Palm Beach’s Flagler Museum, and taking part in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s celebration of the Guarneri Quartet.
The Ying Quartet's many other recordings reflect many of the group's wide-ranging musical interests and have generated consistent, enthusiastic acclaim. The group’s CD “American Anthem” (Sono Luminus), heralding the music of Randall Thompson, Samuel Barber, and Howard Hanson, was released in 2013 to rave reviews; their 2007 Telarc release of the three Tchaikovsky Quartets and the Souvenir de Florence (with James Dunham and Paul Katz) was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Chamber Music Performance category.
The Ying Quartet first came to professional prominence in the early 1990s during their years as resident quartet of Jesup, Iowa, a farm town of 2000 people. Playing before audiences of six to six hundred in homes, schools, churches, and banks, the Quartet had its first opportunities to enable music and creative endeavor to become an integral part of community life. The Quartet considers its time in Jesup the foundation of its present musical life and goals.
As quartet-in-residence at the prestigious Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, the Ying Quartet teaches in the string department and leads a rigorous, sequentially designed chamber music program. One cornerstone of chamber music activity at Eastman is the noted “Music for All” program, in which all students have the opportunity to perform in community settings beyond the concert hall. The Quartet is the ensemble-in-residence at the Bowdoin International Music Festival, and from 2001-2008, the members of the Ying Quartet were the Blodgett Artists-in-Residence at Harvard University.
July 2019 – Please do not edit without permission.
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The Ying Quartet joins forces with pianist Jon Manasse and clarinetist Jon Nakamatsu for a unique celebration of Johannes Brahms. This towering program pairs two of Brahms’ most important works: the Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34 and the Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op. 115.
Brahms: Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34
Brahms: Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op. 115
The Ying Quartet has undertaken a long-term project called LifeMusic that connects music with the American experience and issues of our time. With the support of the Institute of American Music, the Quartet commissions up to two works per year (typically one from an established composer, and one from an emerging composer). Each composer is asked to write a quartet that is inspired by some dimension of the American experience – perhaps a literary, historical, or musical source, or a significant and enduring issue. With these commissions, the Quartet seeks to produce an ongoing series of works from living American composers that are not only inspired somehow by life in America, but also reflect the highest standards of musical excellence. The idea of LifeMusic grows directly from the experience of the Ying Quartet.
2019-2020 & 2020-2021 Program Choices
Program I: Youthful Voices
Mendelssohn: Quartet in A minor, Op. 13
Kevin Puts: Dark Vigil
Smetana: Quartet No. 1 in E minor, “From My Life”
This program opens with a quartet by the teenage Mendelssohn emulating Beethoven's late-period wisdom; it is followed by Kevin Puts’ piece responding to youth violence, written in the wake of the Columbine school shooting, and it closes with Smetana’s Quartet No. 1, written late in life but remembering the vigor of his youth.
Program II: The Long and the Short of It
Schubert: Quartet in C minor, D. 703, “Quartettsatz”
Thompson: Allelulia (arr. A. Ninomiya, D. Ying, J. Ying, & P. Ying)
Puccini: I Crisantemi
Wolf: Italian Serenade
Schubert: Quartet in G major, D. 887
Four quartet miniatures written by composers known for their vocal music, followed by one of the most epic and majestic works in the repertoire.
PROGRAM III: Loves and Passion
Schumann: Quartet in A major, Op. 41, No. 3
Janáček: Quartet No. 2, “Intimate Letters”
Brahms: Quartet in A minor, Op. 51, No. 2
Two takes on love in the first half: Schumann's “Clara” motive within a piece written by the newlywed composer; and Janáček’s musical representation of his major crush on Kamila Stosslova. Then Brahms in the second half, full of ardor even if not necessarily about love.