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Alexander String Quartet
Robert GreenbergHost · Lecturer

Rescheduled performance for the postponed Sunday, September 19, 10am performance.

Alexander String Quartet with Robert Greenberg

Beethoven Quartets

Zakarias Grafilo, violin Frederick Lifsitz, violin David Samuel, viola Sandy Wilson, cello

Saturday, November 6, 2021 | 10am

Herbst TheatreVenue InformationSan Francisco


About This Performance

The beloved and famed Alexander String Quartet and Robert Greenberg welcome an accomplished new violist and, with a host of guest artists, explore Beethoven’s String Quartets. You’ll find these popular and casual concerts combine complete performances with commentary on the composers, their lives, times and music bringing depth, insight and humor to the context.


BEETHOVEN: String Quartet No. 13 in B-flat Major, Op. 130
Grosse Fugue for String Quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 133

Artist Information

Performer Biographies

The Alexander String Quartet has performed in the major music capitals of five continents, securing its standing among the world’s premier ensembles, and a major artistic presence in its home base of San Francisco, serving since 1989 as Ensemble-in-Residence of San Francisco Performances and Directors of The Morrison Chamber Music Center Instructional Program at San Francisco State University. Widely admired for its interpretations of Beethoven, Mozart, and Shostakovich, the quartet’s recordings have won international critical acclaim. They have established themselves as important advocates of new music commissioning dozens of new works from composers including Jake Heggie, Cindy Cox, Augusta Read Thomas, Robert Greenberg, Cesar Cano, Tarik O’Regan, Paul Siskind, and Pulitzer Prize-winner Wayne Peterson. Samuel Carl Adams’ new Quintet with Pillars was premiered and has been widely performed across the U.S. by the Alexander with pianist Joyce Yang, and will be introduced to European audiences in the 2021–2022 season.

The Alexander String Quartet’s annual calendar includes engagements at major halls throughout North America and Europe. They have appeared at Lincoln Center, the 92nd Street Y, and the Metropolitan Museum; Jordan Hall; the Library of Congress; and chamber music societies and universities across the North American continent including Yale, Princeton, Stanford, Lewis and Clark, Pomona, UCLA, the Krannert Center, Purdue and many more. Recent overseas tours include the U.K., the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, France, Greece, the Republic of Georgia, Argentina, Panamá, and the Philippines. Their visit to Poland’s Beethoven Easter Festival is beautifully captured in the 2017 award-winning documentary, Con Moto: The Alexander String Quartet.

Distinguished musicians with whom the Alexander String Quartet has collaborated include pianists Joyce Yang, Roger Woodward, Menachem Pressler, Marc-André Hamelin, and Jeremy Menuhin; clarinetists Joan Enric Lluna, Richard Stoltzman, and Eli Eban; soprano Elly Ameling; mezzo-sopranos Joyce DiDonato and Kindra Scharich; violinist Midori; violist Toby Appel; cellists Lynn Harrell, Sadao Harada, and David Requiro; and jazz greats Branford Marsalis, David Sanchez, and Andrew Speight. The quartet has worked with many composers including Aaron Copland, George Crumb, and Elliott Carter, and enjoys a close relationship with composer-lecturer Robert Greenberg, performing numerous lecture-concerts with him annually.

Recording for the FoghornClassics label, their 2020 release of the Mozart and Brahms clarinet quintets (with Eli Eban) has been praised by Fanfare as “clearly one of the Alexander Quartet’s finest releases.” Their release in 2019 of Dvořák’s “American” quartet and piano quintet (with Joyce Yang) was selected by MusicWeb International as a featured recording of the year, praising it for interpretations performed “with the bright-eyed brilliance of first acquaintance.” Also released in 2019 was a recording of the Late Quartets of Mozart, receiving critical acclaim. (“Exceptionally beautiful performances of some extraordinarily beautiful music.” —Fanfare), as did their 2018 release of Mozart’s piano quartets with Joyce Yang. (“These are by far, hands down and feet up, the most amazing performances of Mozart’s two piano quartets that have ever graced these ears” —Fanfare.) Other major releases have included the combined string quartet cycles of Bartók and Kodály (“If ever an album had ‘Grammy nominee’ written on its front cover, this is it.” —Audiophile Audition); the string quintets and sextets of Brahms with Toby Appel and David Requiro (“a uniquely detailed, transparent warmth” —Strings Magazine); the Schumann and Brahms piano quintets with Joyce Yang (“passionate, soulful readings of two pinnacles of the chamber repertory” —The New York Times); and the Beethoven cycle (“A landmark journey through the greatest of all quartet cycles” —Strings Magazine). Their catalog also includes the Shostakovich cycle, Mozart’s Ten Famous Quartets, and the Mahler song cycles in new transcriptions by Zakarias Grafilo.

The Alexander String Quartet formed in New York City in 1981, capturing international attention as the first American quartet to win the London (now Wigmore) International String Quartet Competition in 1985. The quartet has received honorary degrees from Allegheny College and Saint Lawrence University, and Presidential medals from Baruch College (CUNY). The Alexander plays on a matched set of instruments made in San Francisco by Francis Kuttner, known as the Ellen M. Egger quartet.

Dr. Robert Greenberg was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1954 and has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1978. He received a B.A. in Music, magna cum laude, from Princeton University in 1976 and a Ph.D. in music composition, With Distinction, from the University of California, Berkeley in 1984.

Greenberg has composed more than 50 works for a variety of instrumental and vocal ensembles. Performances of his works have taken place across the United States and Europe.

Dr. Greenberg has received numerous honors, including commissions from the Koussevitzky Music Foundation in the Library of Congress, the Alexander String Quartet, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, San Francisco Performances, and the XTET ensemble. His music is published by Fallen Leaf Press and CPP/Belwin and is recorded on the Innova label.

Greenberg is a Steinway Artist.

Dr. Greenberg is currently the 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, Berkeley; California State University, East Bay; the Advanced Management Program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business; and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where he chaired the Department of Music History and Literature from 1989 to 2001.

Dr. Greenberg has lectured for some of the most prestigious musical and arts organizations in the United States, including the San Francisco Symphony (where for 10 years he was host and lecturer for the symphony’s nationally acclaimed Discovery Series), the Chautauqua Institution (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 Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, Villa Montalvo, the Phoenix Orchestra, the University of British Columbia (where he was the Dal Grauer Lecturer in September 2006), and Philadelphia’s College of Physicians (where he has been the Behrend Lecturer since 2017).

In addition, Dr. Greenberg is a sought-after lecturer for businesses and business schools and has spoken for such diverse organizations as S. C. Johnson, Deutsche Bank, the University of California/Haas School of Business Executive Seminar and the Goldman School of Public Policy, the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, Harvard Business School Publishing, Kaiser Permanente, the Young Presidents’ Organization, the World Presidents’ Organization, and the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco. Dr. Greenberg has been profiled in The Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, the Times of London, the Los Angeles Times, The Christian Science Monitor, and the San Francisco Chronicle, among other publications.

For 15 years, Dr. Greenberg was the resident composer and music historian for NPR’s Weekend All Things Considered and Weekend Edition, Sunday with Liane Hansen. His show Scandalous Overtures can be seen on www.ora.tv/shows.

In May 1993, Greenberg recorded a 48-lecture course entitled “How to Listen to and Understand Great Music” for The Great Courses/The Teaching Company. (This course was named in the January 1996 edition of Inc. Magazine as one of “The Nine Leadership Classics You’ve Never Read.”) Dr. Greenberg has since recorded 30 additional courses. The most recent, “The Great Music of the 20th Century,” was released in January 2018.

In February 2003, Maine’s Bangor Daily News referred to Dr. Greenberg as the Elvis of music history and appreciation, an appraisal that has given him more pleasure than any other.

Dr. Greenberg is currently “blogging, vlogging, performing, Zooming, reviewing, opining, and bloviating 4-6 times a week” on his subscription site at Patreon.com/RobertGreenbergMusic.

Artist Video

Con Moto—The Alexander String Quartet