Alexander String Quartet
Robert GreenbergHost · Lecturer

Alexander String Quartet and Robert Greenberg

Shostakovich String Quartets: Part 2

Zakarias Grafilo, violin
Frederick Lifsitz, violin
Paul Yarbrough, viola
Sandy Wilson, cello

5 Saturdays | 10am
December 1, 8 & 15, 2018 and
January 12 & 26, 2019

St. John’s Presbyterian ChurchVenue Information



Piano Trio No. 2, Op. 67
with Roger Woodward, piano
Quartet No. 8 in C minor, Op. 110

Quartet No. 9 in E-flat Major, Op. 117
Quartet No. 10 in A-flat Major, Op. 118

Quartet No. 11 in F minor, Op. 122
Quartet No. 12 in D-flat Major, Op. 133

Quartet No. 13 in B-flat minor, Op. 138
Quartet No. 14 in F-sharp Major, Op. 142

Quartet No. 15 in E-flat minor, Op. 144
Sonata for Viola and Piano, Op. 147
with Roger Woodward, piano

Performance Sponsors

This program is sponsored in part by the Mark D. Kaplanoff Lecture Fund of San Francisco Performances’ Endowment.

About This Performance

SF Performances was an early pioneer of presenting concerts at convenient, nontraditional times in a casual atmosphere that appeals to audiences and fosters a close connection to the artists. The flagship of this trailblazing continues to be the tremendously popular Saturday morning series with the Alexander String Quartet and Robert Greenberg. Together, the five artists and their devoted audiences spend Saturday mornings plumbing the depths of important chamber music composers, their lives and times. The programs feature performances of complete works, preceded by Greenberg’s commentary, which brims with information, personal glimpses of the composers’ lives, and often humorous details.

The musical career of Dmitri Shostakovich (1906–1975) mirrored exactly the rise and history of the Soviet Union from 1917–1975. He entered the Petrograd Conservatory at the very end of the Tsarist era; he witnessed the Revolution and began his career during Lenin’s rule; he was nearly purged twice by Stalin; he flourished under Khrushchev and died while Brezhnev was in power. Shostakovich was a survivor and a great composer, and his fear and self-loathing, his courage and experience found their way into his music. As such, Shostakovich is not just the most important composer of string quartets and symphonies from the 1920s to the 1970s; even more, he and his music stand as witnesses to the rise and failures of the Soviet Union, one of the defining events of the twentieth century. Join us for the second season of a two-season exploration of Shostakovich’s string quartets and chamber works. In these days of resurgent Russian despotism, Shostakovich’s life, experience, and music offer an extraordinary cautionary tale.

Performer Biographies

Having celebrated its 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).

Robert Greenberg was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1954, and has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1978. Greenberg received a BA in music, magna cum laude, from Princeton University in 1976. His principal teachers at Princeton were Edward Cone, Daniel Werts, and Carlton Gamer in composition, Claudio Spies and Paul Lansky in analysis, and Jerry Kuderna in piano. In 1984, Greenberg received a Ph.D. in music composition, With Distinction, from the University of California, Berkeley, where his principal teachers were Andrew Imbrie and Olly Wilson in composition and Richard Felciano in analysis.

Greenberg has composed over fifty works for a wide variety of instrumental and vocal ensembles. Recent performances of his works have taken place in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, England, Ireland, Greece, Italy and The Netherlands, where his Child’s Play for String Quartet was performed at the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam.

Greenberg has received numerous honors, including being designated an official “Steinway Artist,” three Nicola de Lorenzo Composition Prizes and three Meet-The-Composer Grants. Notable commissions have been received from the Koussevitzky Foundation in the Library of Congress, the Alexander String Quartet, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, San Francisco Performances, and the XTET ensemble. Greenberg is a board member and an artistic director of COMPOSERS, INC., a composers’ collective/production organization based in San Francisco. His music has been published by Fallen Leaf Press and CPP/Belwin, and recorded on the Innova label.

Greenberg has performed, taught and lectured extensively across North America and Europe. He is currently music historian-in-residence with San Francisco Performances, where he has lectured and performed since 1994. He has served on the faculties of the University of California at Berkeley, California State University East Bay, and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where he chaired the Department of Music History and Literature from 1989–2001 and served as the Director of the Adult Extension Division from 1991–1996. Greenberg has lectured for some of the most prestigious musical and arts organizations in the United States, including the San Francisco Symphony (where for ten years he was host and lecturer for the Symphony’s nationally acclaimed “Discovery Series”), the Chautauqua Institute (where he was the Everett Scholar-in-Residence during the 2006 season), the Ravinia Festival, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Van Cliburn Foundation, the Nasher Sculpture Center, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, Villa Montalvo, Music @ Menlo, and the University of British Columbia (where he was the Dal Grauer Lecturer in September of 2006). In addition, Greenberg is a sought after lecturer for businesses and business schools. For many years a member of the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania/Wharton School’s Advanced Management Program, he has spoken for such diverse organizations as S.C. Johnson, Canadian Pacific, Deutsches Bank, the University of California/Haas School of Business Executive Seminar, the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, Harvard Business School Publishing, Kaiser-Permanente, the Strategos Institute, Quintiles Transnational, the Young Presidents’ Organization, the World Presidents’ Organization, and the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco. Greenberg has been profiled in the Wall Street Journal, INC. Magazine, the Times of London, the Los Angeles Times, the Christian Science Monitor, the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Jose Mercury News, the University of California Alumni Magazine, Princeton Alumni Weekly, and Diablo Magazine. For fifteen years Greenberg was the resident composer and music historian to National Public Radio’s Weekend All Things Considered and Weekend Edition, Sunday with Liane Hansen.

In February 2003, The Bangor Daily News (Maine) referred to Greenberg as the “Elvis of music history and appreciation”, an appraisal that has given more pleasure than any other.

In May 1993, Greenberg recorded a forty-eight lecture course entitled “How to Listen to and Understand Great Music” for the Teaching Company/Great Courses Program of Chantilly, Virginia. (This course was named in the January, 1996 edition of Inc. Magazine as one of “The Nine Leadership Classics You’ve Never Read”.) The Great Courses is the preeminent producer of college level courses-on-media in the United States. Twenty-Five further courses, including “Concert Masterworks”, “Bach and the High Baroque”, “The Symphonies of Beethoven”, “How to Listen to and Understand Opera”, “Great Masters”, “The Operas of Mozart”, “The Life and Operas of Verdi”, “The Symphony”, “The Chamber Music of Mozart”, “The Piano Sonatas of Beethoven”, “The Concerto”, “The Fundamentals of Music”, “The String Quartets of Beethoven”, “The Music of Richard Wagner”, and “The Thirty Greatest Orchestral Works” have been recorded since, totaling over 550 lectures. The courses are available on both CD and DVD formats and in book form.

Dr. Greenberg’s book, How to Listen to Great Music, was published by Plume, a division of Penguin Books, in April, 2011.

Greenberg lives with his children Lillian and Daniel, wife Nanci, and a very cool Maine coon (cat) named Teddy in the hills of Oakland, California.

Robert Greenberg is an official Steinway Artist.

Yehudi Menuhin discovered twenty-six year old Roger Woodward at the UNESCO Jeunesses Musicales, Paris. Within a year, the young artist made his debut at London’s Royal Festival Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and began recording for EMI, Decca, RCA, DG, CPO and the Universal recording companies. He rose to international prominence in a series of collaborations with Olivier Messiaen, Pierre Boulez, Jean Barraqué, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Iannis Xenakis, Toru Takemitsu, Arvo Pärt, John Cage, Morton Feldman, Frank Zappa, Robert Greenberg and Harrison Birtwistle, Luciano Berio, Sylvano Bussotti, Horatiu Radulescu, Rolf Gehlhaar, James Dillon, Áskell Másson, Qu Xiaosong, Leo Brouwer and composers from his native Australia—in particular, Richard Meale, Anne Boyd, Barry Conyngham, Ross Edwards and Larry Sitsky.

His performances at La Scala, the Hollywood Bowl, Tiananmen Square, the Odeon of the Herodes Atticus, Lisbon’s Gulbenkian Gardens, the Royal Albert Hall, London, for BBC Promenade Concerts, Le festival d’automne à Paris, La biennale di Venezia, Wien Modern, New York Piano Festival, Edinburgh Festival, Warszawska Jesień, Festival de la Roque d’Anthéron and, at the invitation of the Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter, at the celebrated Grange de Meslay, Touraine, have been reviewed as belonging to the highest echelons of pianists.

Woodward performed at the invitation of conductors such as: Claudio Abbado, Nello Santi, Lamberto Gardelli, Zubin Mehta, Lorin Maazel, Sir Charles Mackerras, Kurt Masur, Charles Dutoit, Pierre Boulez, Edo de Waart, Willem van Otterloo, Sir Andrew Davis, Sir Roger Norrington, Sir John Pritchard, Sir Alexander Gibson, Herbert Bloomstedt, Paavo Bergland, Georg Tintner, Tan Li Hua, Arturo Tamayo, Erich Leinsdorf, Eliahu Inbal, Witold Rowicki, Antoni Wit, Nikolaus Weiss, Moshe Atzmon, Lukas Foss, Arnold Katz, Hiroyuki Iwaki, James Judd, Hans Zender, Walter Susskind, Georges Tzipine et al and with the New York, Los Angeles, Beijing and Israel Philharmonic Orchestras, the Cleveland Orchestra, the GustavMahler Jugendorchester, the Australian Youth Orchestra, the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester, Saarländisches Staatsorchester, the Frankfurt Radio Orchestra and Orchestre de Paris, Berlin Radio Orchester, NDR Sinfonie Orchester, and the six London orchestras as well as with the NZSO and Australian State orchestras.

Memorable collaborations occurred with Graeme Murphy, Janet Vernon and the Sydney Dance Company on in which Woodward directed a series of twenty-five performances of Xenakis’ Kraanerg at the Sydney Opera House. His subsequent recording of this work was declared one of the best recordings of the year by the London music critics. He performed with the Budapest and Prague Chamber Orchestras, with the Alexander, Arditti, Edinburgh, JACK (New York), Tokyo and Australian String Quartets. He toured widely with the Vienna Trio, and with the musicians Ivry Gitlis, Wanda Wilkomirska, Philippe Hirschhorn, Ilya Grubert, Winfried Rademacher, Federico Agostini, James Creitz, Rohan de Saram, Nathan Waks, Synergy Percussion and Cecil Taylor. He developed a wide variety of musicological and performance projects with the British-French musicologist Arthur Hedley, the American musicologists HC Robbins Landon, Charles Rosen and British analyst Richard Toop and is published by HarperCollins (Australia), and the Pendragon and Greenway Press (New York).

His recordings have earned him widespread critical acclaim with such prestigious awards as the Goethe prize and Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik, by the German critics; the Ritmo prize by the Spanish critics and Diapason d’or by the French critics. His performances and recordings of J.S. Bach’s Das Wohltemperierte Clavier and Partitas, of the complete Beethoven piano sonatas and concertos and works of Mozart, Chopin, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Debussy, Bartók, Schoenberg, Skryabin, Rakhmaninov, Prokofiev, Shostakovich 24 Preludes and Fugues, Feldman, Xenakis, Barraqué, Takemitsu, Qu Xiaosong, Hamel, Otte and recordings of works by many Australian composers, received exceptional reviews. His exceptionally large repertoire spans all periods and styles.

Woodward is a composer and conductor who directed festivals in the UK (London Music Digest), France (La Bourgogne), Austria (Kötschach-Mauthen Musikfest) and Australia (Sydney Spring). He is currently professor of Keyboard Literature and Performance Practice at the California State University in San Francisco where he was founding director of the (then) new School of Music & Dance in 2002, and before that, chair at the University of New England, Australia.

For the past ten years he recorded for Celestial Harmonies, Universal and ABC Classics. Early studies in harpsichord, organ and church music at St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney continued at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music with Alexander Sverjensky (a pupil of Alexandr Glazunov and Sergei Rakhmaninov), then with Zbigniew Drzewiecki at the Chopin National Academy of Music, Warsaw. At the beginning of his career (in 1963) he founded the Sydney International Piano Competition and directed it until it was permanently funded from 1976 and established itself as one of the major international piano competitions. Every year he gives master classes in many different parts of the world and regularly appears on the juries of piano competitions. He performed the complete works of Chopin from memory and on twelve occasions, Beethoven’s complete piano sonata and concerto cycles.

The artist was awarded many distinguished honors and prizes including France’s Chevalier des arts et des lettres, the Polish Order of Merit (Commander Class), the Polish Order of Solidarity, the Polish Gloria Artis (gold class) and Order of the British Empire. He is a Companion of the Order of Australia, recipient of the Australian Centenary (of Federation) Medal and in 1997, was designated a National Living Treasure by the Australian National Trust.

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