Brentano String Quartet
Mark Steinberg, violin
Serena Canin, violin
Misha Amory, viola
Nina Lee, cello
Saturday, October 15, 2016
Wednesday, October 19, 2016 | 7:30pm
Herbst TheatreVenue Information
All BEETHOVEN Program:
Sonata in G Major for Violin and Piano, Op. 96 (Mark Steinberg & Jonathan Biss); Sonata in C minor for Piano, Op. 111 (Jonathan Biss); String Quartet in F Major, Op. 135 (Brentano String Quartet)
BACH: Selections from Art of the Fugue
ELGAR: Piano Quintet in A minor, Op. 84
GESUALDO: Selected Madrigals
MOZART: String Quintet in E flat Major, K. 614 (with Hsin-Yun Huang, viola)
About This Performance
Beethoven’s last works in the genres in which he was most prolific comprise the Oct. 15 program, a rare primer on the composer’s revolutionary musical language and philosophy. Illuminating this most profound music is an ensemble “of exceptional insight and communicative gifts” (Daily Telegraph, London) and pianist Jonathan Biss.
The Oct. 19 program contends with what Jonathan Biss calls “the various inscrutabilities of composers in their late years.” Alternating from Bach’s mysterious and unfinished Art of the Fugue to the joyful and life-affirming signature quintet by Mozart, this program complicates the valedictory nature of a “late syle.”
“The Brentanos are a magnificent string quartet…This was wonderful, selfless music-making.”
—The Times (London)
Since its inception in 1992, the Brentano String Quartet has appeared throughout the world to popular and critical acclaim. “Passionate, uninhibited and spellbinding,” raves the London Independent; the New York Times extols its “luxuriously warm sound [and] yearning lyricism”; the Philadelphia Inquirer praises its “seemingly infallible instincts for finding the center of gravity in every phrase and musical gesture”; and the Times (London) opines, “the Brentanos are a magnificent string quartet…This was wonderful, selfless music-making.” Within a few years of its formation, the Quartet garnered the first Cleveland Quartet Award and the Naumburg Chamber Music Award; and in 1996 the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center invited them to be the inaugural members of Chamber Music Society Two, a program which was to become a coveted distinction for chamber groups and individuals. The Quartet had its first European tour in 1997, and was honored in the U.K. with the Royal Philharmonic Award for Most Outstanding Debut. That debut recital was at London’s Wigmore Hall, and the Quartet has continued its warm relationship with Wigmore, appearing there regularly and serving as the hall’s Quartet-in-residence in the 2000–01 season.
In recent seasons the Quartet has traveled widely, appearing all over the United States and Canada, in Europe, Japan and Australia. It has performed in the world’s most prestigious venues, including Carnegie Hall and Alice Tully Hall in New York; the Library of Congress in Washington; the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam; the Konzerthaus in Vienna; Suntory Hall in Tokyo; and the Sydney Opera House. The Quartet has participated in summer festivals such as Aspen, the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, the Edinburgh Festival, the Kuhmo Festival in Finland, the Taos School of Music and the Caramoor Festival.
In addition to performing the entire two-century range of the standard quartet repertoire, the Brentano Quartet has a strong interest in both very old and very new music. It has performed many musical works pre-dating the string quartet as a medium, among them Madrigals of Gesualdo, Fantasias of Purcell, and secular vocal works of Josquin. Also, the quartet has worked closely with some of the most important composers of our time, among them Elliott Carter, Charles Wuorinen, Chou Wen-chung, Steven Mackey, Bruce Adolphe, and György Kurtág. The Quartet has commissioned works from Wuorinen, Adolphe, Mackey, David Horne and Gabriela Frank. The Quartet celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2002 by commissioning ten composers to write companion pieces for selections from Bach’s Art of Fugue, the result of which was an electrifying and wide-ranging single concert program. The Quartet has also worked with the celebrated poet Mark Strand, commissioning poetry from him to accompany works of Haydn and Webern.
The Quartet has been privileged to collaborate with such artists as soprano Jessye Norman, mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, pianist Richard Goode, and pianist Mitsuko Uchida. In 2015–16, they will collaborate with pianist Jonathan Biss on a project centered around late works of great composers. The Quartet has recorded the Opus 71 Quartets of Haydn, and has also recorded a Mozart disc for Aeon Records, consisting of the K. 464 Quartet and the K. 593 Quintet, with violist Hsin-Yun Huang. In 2010–12, the Quartet recorded all of Beethoven’s late quartets, which were also released on Aeon. In the area of newer music, the Quartet has released a disc of the music of Steven Mackey on Albany Records, and has also recorded the music of Bruce Adolphe, Chou Wen-chung and Charles Wuorinen. Upcoming releases include a recording of Schubert’s Cello Quintet, recorded at Amherst with Michael Kannen.
In 1998, cellist Nina Lee joined the Quartet, succeeding founding member Michael Kannen. The following season the Quartet became the first Ensemble-In-Residence at Princeton University, where they taught and performed for fifteen years.
In the fall of 2014, the Quartet became the Resident String Quartet at the Yale School of Music, succeeding the Tokyo Quartet in that position. At Yale, they perform in concert each semester, and work closely with the students in chamber music contexts.
The Quartet is named for Antonie Brentano, whom many scholars consider to be Beethoven’s “Immortal Beloved”, the intended recipient of his famous love confession.
Jonathan Biss is a world-renowned pianist who extends his deep musical and intellectual curiosity from the keyboard to classical music lovers in the concert hall and beyond. In addition to his performance schedule, the 34-year old American has spent eight summers at the Marlboro Music Festival, and has written extensively for prestigious media outlets about his own relationships with the composers with whom he shares a stage. A member of the faculty of his alma mater, the Curtis Institute of Music, since 2010, Biss led the school’s first massive open online course (MOOC) to a virtual classroom of 51,000 students last season.
This season, Biss will perform throughout the United States and Europe, including appearances with the Chicago, Danish National, BBC, Stuttgart Radio, and Finnish Radio symphony orchestras; the New York Philharmonic; the Philharmonia and Minnesota orchestras, and the Los Angeles and Netherlands chamber orchestras. Biss will tour Italy and the United States with Mark Padmore and perform with the Belcea Quartet at Wigmore Hall. He will also have recitals in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Houston, Denver, and at the Aldeburgh and Rheingau festivals and the International Piano Series in London. Additional performances include the UK premiere at the BBC Proms of the Bernard Rands piano concerto commissioned by Biss, Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Riccardo Muti, and an appearance with Orpheus Chamber Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, playing Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3.
Biss has embarked on a nine-year, nine-disc recording cycle of Beethoven’s complete piano sonatas. The fourth volume will be released in January 2015. Biss’s first Amazon Kindle Single, Beethoven's Shadow, was the first-ever Single written by a classical musician. It spent many weeks on the Kindle Singles bestseller list opposite works by major commercial fiction writers and was the number one music title in the Kindle Store for months. In 2013, Biss partnered with the Curtis Institute of Music and Coursera to offer a MOOC, Exploring Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas. The course will relaunch in January 2015 on Coursera in a new format, allowing students to watch all the video lessons at once or progress at their own pace. The second part of the course—on additional Beethoven sonatas—will launch in Spring 2015.
Biss’s Schumann: Under the Influence project was a 30-concert exploration of the composer's role in musical history. Biss and several hand-picked collaborators performed Schumann’s work in juxtaposition with the music of Purcell, Beethoven, Schubert, Berg, Janacek, and Timo Andres. As part of the project, Biss recorded Schumann and Dvořák Piano Quintets with the Elias String Quartet and wrote an Amazon Kindle Single on Schumann, A Pianist Under the Influence.
Throughout his career, Biss has been an advocate for new music. Among the works he has commissioned are Lunaire Variations by David Ludwig, Interlude II by Leon Kirchner, Wonderer by Lewis Spratlan, Three Pieces for Piano and a concerto by Bernard Rands, which he premiered last season with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He has also premiered piano quintets by Timothy Andres and William Bolcom and is developing a commissioning project based on Beethoven’s piano concerti.
Biss represents the third generation in a family of professional musicians that includes his grandmother Raya Garbousova, one of the first well-known female cellists (for whom Samuel Barber composed his Cello Concerto), and his parents, violinist Miriam Fried and violist/violinist Paul Biss. Growing up surrounded by music, Biss began his piano studies at age six, and his first musical collaborations were with his mother and father. He studied at Indiana University with Evelyne Brancart and at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia with Leon Fleisher. At age 20, Biss made his New York recital debut at the 92nd Street Y’s Tisch Center for the Arts and his New York Philharmonic debut under Kurt Masur.
Biss has been recognized with numerous honors, including the Leonard Bernstein Award presented at the 2005 Schleswig-Holstein Festival, Wolf Trap’s Shouse Debut Artist Award, the Andrew Wolf Memorial Chamber Music Award, Lincoln Center’s Martin E. Segal Award, an Avery Fisher Career Grant, the 2003 Borletti-Buitoni Trust Award, and the 2002 Gilmore Young Artist Award. He was an artist-in-residence on American Public Media’s Performance Today and was the first American chosen to participate in the BBC’s New Generation Artist program.
Hsin-Yun Huang has forged a career as one of the leading violists of her generation, performing on international concert stages, commissioning and recording new works, and nurturing young musicians. Ms. Huang has been soloist with the Berlin Radio Orchestra, the Tokyo Philharmonic, the Taiwan Philharmonic, the Russian State Symphony, Zagreb Soloist International Contemporary Ensemble; and the London Sinfonia, among many others. She performs regularly at festivals, including Marlboro, Santa Fe, Rome Chamber Music Festival, and Spoleto USA. Other festivals include Moritzburg, Divonne, Cartagena, Prague Spring, Telluride, and Salt Bay, among many others. She tours extensively with the Brentano String Quartet, most notably including performances of the complete Mozart string quintets at Carnegie Hall.
Ms. Huang was the Artistic Director of the Sejong International Music Festival which took place at the Curtis Institute of Music from 2013–15. The 2014–2015 season brought the debut of a series of three chamber concerts presented by the 92nd Street Y. Other recent highlights include complete Hindemith Viola Concerti with the Taiwan Philharmonic and Taipei City Symphony; concerto appearances in the Alice Tully Hall and Central Park of New York City.
Ms. Huang has in recent years embarked on a series of major commissioning projects for solo viola and chamber ensemble. To date, these works include compositions from Steven Mackey (Groundswell), which premiered at the Aspen Festival. Shih-Hui Chen (Shu Shon Key) and Poul Ruders (Romances) Ms. Huang’s 2012 recording, titled Viola Viola, for Bridge Records, included those works along with compositions by Elliott Carter and George Benjamin; the CD has won particular accolades from Gramophone and BBC Music Magazine.
A native of Taiwan and an alumna of Young Concert Artists, Ms. Huang received degrees from The Juilliard School and The Curtis Institute of Music. She has given master classes at the Guildhall School in London, the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, the San Francisco Conservatory, and the McDuffie Center for Strings at Mercer University. She served on the jury of the 2011 Banff International String Quartet Competition as well as the 2015 Honen’s Piano Competition as a Collaborative Artist.
Ms. Huang first came to international attention as the gold medalist and the youngest competitor in the 1988 Lionel Tertis International Viola Competition. In 1993 she was the top prize winner in the ARD International Competition in Munich, and was awarded the highly prestigious Bunkamura Orchard Hall Award. Ms. Huang was a member of the Borromeo String Quartet from 1994 to 2000. She is a founding member of the Variation String Trio with violinist Jennifer Koh and cellist Wilhelmina Smith. Ms. Huang now serves on the faculty of the Juilliard School and the Curtis Institute of Music. She is married to Misha Amory, violist of the Brentano String Quartet. They live in New York City with their two children, Lucas and Leah