Concert of Gratitude
Alexander String Quartet
Sunday, October 23, 2016 | 7pm
Herbst TheatreVenue Information
BEETHOVEN: Quartet No. 11 in F minor, Serioso, Op. 95
Alexander String Quartet
BRAHMS: Intermezzi, Op. 117
Marc-André Hamelin, piano
BACH: Sonata No. 1 in G minor for Solo Violin, BWV 1001
SCHUMANN: Quintet in E-flat Major, Op. 44
Marc-André Hamelin, piano & Alexander String Quartet
CHAUSSON: Sicilienne from Concert for Violin, Piano and String Quartet, Op. 21
Alexander String Quartet, Marc-André Hamelin & Midori
About This Performance
This concert is Ruth Felt’s thanks to supporters of San Francisco Performances, as she retires as President of the organization she founded 37 years ago. The program will feature celebrated artists who are such an important part of the artistic mission of San Francisco Performances—the Alexander String Quartet, pianist Marc-André Hamelin and violinist Midori.
Having celebrated it 30th Anniversary in 2011, the Alexander String Quartet has performed in the major music capitals of five continents, securing its standing among the world’s premiere ensembles. Widely admired for its interpretations of Beethoven, Mozart, and Shostakovich, the quartet's recordings of the Beethoven cycle (twice), and the Bartók and Shostakovich cycles have all won international critical acclaim. The quartet has also established itself as an important advocate of new music through over 25 commissions from such composers as Jake Heggie, Cindy Cox, Augusta Read Thomas, Robert Greenberg, Martin Bresnick, César Cano, and Pulitzer Prize-winner, Wayne Peterson. A new work by Tarik O'Reagan commissioned for the Alexander by the Boise Chamber Music Series, will have its premiere in 2016.
The Alexander String Quartet is a major artistic presence in its home base of San Francisco, serving since 1989 as Ensemble-in-Residence for San Francisco Performances and Directors of the the Morrison Chamber Music Center in the College of Liberal and Creative Arts at San Francisco State University.
The Alexander String Quartet’s annual calendar of concerts includes engagements at major halls throughout North America and Europe. The quartet has appeared at Lincoln Center, the 92nd Street Y, and the Metropolitan Museum in New York City; Jordan Hall in Boston; the Library of Congress and Dumbarton Oaks in Washington; and chamber music societies and universities across the North American continent. Recent overseas tours have brought them to the U.K., the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, France, Greece, the Republic of Georgia, Argentina, Panamá, and the Philippines. They returned to Poland for their debut performances at the Beethoven Easter Festival in 2015. Among the fine musicians with whom the Alexander String Quartet has collaborated are pianists Joyce Yang, Roger Woodward, Anne-Marie McDermott, Jon Nakamatsu, Menahem Pressler, and Jeremy Menuhin; clarinetists Joan Enric Lluna, David Shifrin, Richard Stolzman, and Eli Eban; soprano Elly Ameling; mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato; cellists Lynn Harrell, Sadao Harada, and David Requiro; violist Toby Appel; and jazz greats, Branford Marsalis, David Sánchez, and Andrew Speight. The quartet has worked with many composers including Aaron Copland, George Crumb, and Elliott Carter and has long enjoyed a close relationship with composer-lecturer Robert Greenberg, performing numerous lecture-concerts with him annually.
The Alexander String Quartet added considerably to its distinguished and wide-ranging discography over the past decade, now recording exclusively for the FoghornClassics label. There were three major releases in the 2013–2014 season: The combined string quartet cycles of Bartók and Kodály, recorded on the renowned Ellen M. Egger Quartet of matched instruments built by San Francisco luthier, Francis Kuttner (“If ever an album had ‘Grammy nominee’ written on its front cover, this is it.” —Audiophile Audition); The String Quintets & Sextets of Brahms with Toby Appel and David Requiro (“a uniquely detailed, transparent warmth” —Strings Magazine); and the Brahms & Schumann Piano Quintets with Joyce Yang (“passionate, soulful readings of two pinnacles of the chamber repertory” —The New York Times). Their recording of music of Gershwin and Kern was released in the summer of 2012, following the Spring 2012 recording of the clarinet quintet of Brahms and a new quintet from César Cano (in Friendship), in collaboration with Joan Enric Lluna, as well as a disc in collaboration with the San Francisco Choral Artists (with Strings Attached). Next to be released will be an album of works by Cindy Cox.
The Alexander's 2009 release of the complete Beethoven Cycle was described by Music Web International as performances “uncompromising in power, intensity and spiritual depth,” while Strings Magazine described the set as “a landmark journey through the greatest of all quartet cycles.” The FoghornClassics label released a three-CD set (Homage) of the Mozart quartets dedicated to Haydn in 2004. FoghornClassics released a six-CD album (Fragments Volume 1 & Volume 2) of the complete Shostakovich quartets in 2006 and 2007, and a recording of the complete quartets of Pulitzer prize-winning San Francisco composer, Wayne Peterson (Retrospections), was released in the Spring of 2008. BMG Classics released the quartet’s first recording of Beethoven cycle on its Arte Nova label to tremendous critical acclaim in 1999.
The Alexander String Quartet was formed in New York City in 1981 and captured international attention as the first American quartet to win the London International String Quartet Competition in 1985. The quartet has received honorary degrees from Allegheny College and St. Lawrence University, and presidential medals from Baruch College (CUNY).
Pianist Marc-André Hamelin is ranked among the elect of world pianists for his unrivaled blend of musicianship and virtuosity in the great works of the established repertoire, as well as for his intrepid exploration of the rarities of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries—in concert and on disc.
He begins the 2016–17 season with summer festival appearances at the Schubertiade, Verbier, Lofoton, Salzburg, and recitals at Tanglewood, Domaine Forget, Aspen, and La Jolla, where the La Jolla Music Society commissioned Hamelin to write a piano/cello sonata for himself and cellist Hai-Ye Ni. Mr. Hamelin’s orchestral engagements this season include weeks with the Montreal (Ravel and Shostakovich with Nagano) and Minnesota (Vanska) orchestras; the Indianapolis Symphony in a reprise of the Haydn Cto. In D Major with Bernard Labadie, per their recent recording; the Bayerische Staatsorchester with Kirill Petrenko; the NDR Hanover, and the symphony orchestras in Gothenburg, Oregon, Bologna, Montpellier, and the Warsaw Philharmonic in repertoire including Brahms 1 and 2, Medtner 2, and Mozart K. 453. Recitals include those at the Vienna Konzerthaus, Berlin Philharmonic, The Gilmore Festival, the 92nd St Y in New York, and in Cleveland, Chicago, Toronto, et al. He also ventures to China for a set of recitals at the Shanghai Concert Hall.
Special events of 2016–17 include duo recitals with Leif Ove Andsnes at Wigmore Hall in London, in Rotterdam, Dublin, Italy, and in Seattle, San Francisco, Washington, Beverly Hills, and at Symphony Center in Chicago and Carnegie Hall in New York. He tours with the Pacifica Quartet, playing the world premiere of his own string quintet, commissioned by the Segerstrom Center in Orange County, CA, and concludes the season as a juror at the Cliburn Piano Competition, for which he has been commissioned to write the obligatory solo work for the contestants. Last season, Mr. Hamelin was a featured artist in solo recital on the Keyboard Virtuoso Series at Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium in January, and returned to Carnegie Hall for a performance of Franz Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Budapest Festival Orchestra and conductor Iván Fischer in February, part of a North American tour that also brought Mr. Hamelin and the BFO to the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, and Maison Symphonique in Montréal. Mr. Hamelin collaborated with the London Philharmonic and Principal Conductor Vladimir Jurowski at Frankfurt’s Alte Oper (Liszt’s Totentanz and Rachmaninov’s Paganini Rhapsody) and joined them again in London for performances and recordings of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3 and Nikolai Medtner’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Further orchestral highlights included Mr. Hamelin’s debut with the Filharmonica della Scala in Milan, and the British premiere performances of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Piano Concerto (which was written for Mr. Hamelin) with the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester. Mr. Hamelin also appeared with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the National Arts Centre Orchestra, the Quebec, San Diego, and Toronto Symphony orchestras, as well as the Berlin Radio Symphony, the Lucerne Symphony and the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana in repertoire ranging from Mozart to Brahms, Ravel and Messiaen.
Marc-André Hamelin is a frequent recitalist for Chicago Symphony Presents, the Cliburn, Spivey Hall, Montreal Pro Musica, Music Toronto, WPA in Washington, the Boston Celebrity Series and the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, Princeton University, San Francisco Performances, and in all the major concert halls in New York. Recitals in Europe include regular appearances at the Wigmore Hall in London, Munich, DeSingel in Antwerp, the Concertgebuow in Amsterdam, Moscow State Philharmonic Society, Perugia, the Heidelberg Festival and the Salzburg Mozarteum, as well as a recent three-concert residency at the Muziekgebouw in Amsterdam. He has appeared repeatedly with the symphony orchestras of Chicago, New York, Boston, Cleveland, and Philadelphia. At the last of these, he played the American premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Piano Concerto (written for him) with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Yannick Nezet-Seguin. In his 2014 debut with the Cleveland Orchestra in Haydn’s D Major Piano Concerto his playing was praised as “the very paragon of Classical purity, a fount of crisp, sparkling passages” (Cleveland Plain-Dealer, May 1, 2015).
In recognition of his remarkable discography, Mr. Hamelin was inducted into the Gramophone Hall of Fame in June 2015. Also awarded the 2006 lifetime achievement prize by the German Record Critic’s Award (Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik), Mr. Hamelin has recorded some 70 CDs for the Hyperion label, most recently a double disc of Mozart Sonatas and two recordings with the Takács Quartet featuring the piano quintets by Shostakovich and Leo Ornstein. Further highlights of Mr. Hamelin’s recent discography include a CD devoted to Schumann’s Kinderszenen and Waldszenen and Janáček’s On the Overgrown Path, which was listed as CD of the Month in both Gramophone and BBC Music magazines. His recording of Busoni’s Late Piano Works received the 2014 Echo Award of “Instrumentalist of the Year (Piano)” and “Disc of the Year” by two leading French journals, Diapason and Classica. Mr. Hamelin’s discography ranges from the neglected masterpieces of Alkan, Ives, Medtner and Roslavets to brilliantly received performances of Schumann, Brahms, Chopin, and Debussy. A series of recordings of Haydn sonatas and concertos was particularly well-received, putting Mr. Hamelin on “the shortlist of most revelatory Haydn interpreters on record” (BBC Music Magazine, June 2015). In 2010 Mr. Hamelin joined the ranks on CD of noted composer-pianists by releasing his own highly inventive 12 Etudes in all the minor keys on the Hyperion label and with publication by Edition Peters.
Mr. Hamelin has since performed his own compositions around the world, to great critical acclaim. His Pavane variée was commissioned for the ARD Music Competition in Munich, where it was the obligatory piece for the 2014 piano competition. Winner of the 1985 Carnegie Hall Competition, Marc-André Hamelin was born in Montreal. He began to play the piano at the age of five, and by the age of nine had already won top prize in the Canadian Music Competition. Mr. Hamelin's father, a pharmacist by trade who was also a gifted amateur pianist, had introduced him to the works of Alkan, Medtner and Sorabji when he was still very young. Mr. Hamelin’s principal teachers included Gilles Hamelin, Yvonne Hubert, Harvey Wedeen and Russell Sherman; he studied at the École Vincent d'Indy in Montreal and then at Temple University in Philadelphia.
An Officer of the Order of Canada since 2003 and a Chevalier de l’Ordre du Québec since 2004, Mr. Hamelin is also a member of the Royal Society of Canada and features prominently in the book The Composer-Pianists: Hamelin and the Eight by Robert Rimm, published by Amadeus Press. Mr. Hamelin makes his home in the Boston area.
Midori is one of the most legendary violinists of this generation. In addition to performing at the highest levels internationally, she has also been recognized by the United Nations and the World Economic Forum for her exceptional commitment to education and community engagement throughout the USA, Europe, Asia and the developing world. More recently, Midori has been making a sustained commitment to the violin repertoire of the future, commissioning several new concerto and recital works.
In the last few seasons, Midori has added several new recordings to her extensive catalogue of discs—a recording of Bach’s complete Solo Sonatas and Partitas and a forthcoming release of the violin concerto DoReMi written for her by Peter Eötvös and recorded with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France. In 2014, a recording featuring Midori’s performance of Hindemith’s Violin Concerto with NDR Symphony Orchestra and Christoph Eschenbach won a Grammy Award for Best Classical Compendium.
Midori is recognized as an extraordinary performer, a devoted and gifted educator and an innovative community engagement activist. In 1992 she founded Midori & Friends, a non-profit organization in New York which brings music education programs to underserved New York City schoolchildren in every borough each year. Two other organizations, Music Sharing, based in Japan, and Partners in Performance, based in the U.S., also bring music closer to the lives of people who may not otherwise have involvement with the arts. Her commitment to community collaboration and outreach is further realized in her Orchestra Residences Program. In 2007, she was named a Messenger of Peace by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Midori was born in Osaka, Japan in 1971 and began studying the violin with her mother, Setsu Goto, at an early age. Zubin Mehta first heard Midori play in 1982 and it was he who invited her to make her now legendary debut—at the age of 11—at the New York Philharmonic’s traditional New Year’s Eve concert, on which occasion she received a standing ovation and the impetus to begin a major career. Today Midori lives in Los Angeles, where, in addition to her many commitments, she continues her position as Distinguished Professor of Violin and Jascha Heifetz Chair at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music.
Midori’s violin is the 1734 Guarnerius del Gesù ‘ex-Huberman.’ She uses three bows—two by Dominique Peccatte, and one by Paul Siefried.