Brentano String Quartet
Thursday, January 12, 2023 | 7:30pm
Herbst TheatreVenue Information
About This Performance
Revered American soprano Dawn Upshaw and the unparalleled Brentano String Quartet come together for a new performance project. Sparked by the famous “Dido’s Lament” from Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, Dido Reimagined focuses on “the emotional journey of a powerful woman who has, in spite of her strength of character, been broken by love. Through the lens of the seasons, Dido discovers, confronts, and ultimately makes peace with her fate and with her place in the world” (Composer Melinda Wagner).
Joining a rare natural warmth with a fierce commitment to the transforming communicative power of music, Dawn Upshaw has achieved worldwide celebrity as a singer of opera and concert repertoire ranging from the sacred works of Bach to the freshest sounds of today. Her ability to reach to the heart of music and text has earned her both the devotion of an exceptionally diverse audience, and the awards and distinctions accorded to only the most distinguished of artists. In 2007, she was named a Fellow of the MacArthur Foundation, the first vocal artist to be awarded the five-year “genius” prize, and in 2008 she was named a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.
Her acclaimed performances on the opera stage comprise the great Mozart roles (Susanna, Ilia, Pamina, Despina, and Zerlina) as well as modern works by Stravinsky, Poulenc, and Messiaen. From Salzburg, Paris and Glyndebourne to the Metropolitan Opera, where she began her career in 1984 and has since made nearly 300 appearances, Dawn Upshaw has also championed numerous new works created for her, including The Great Gatsby by John Harbison; the Grawemeyer Award-winning opera, L’Amour de Loin and oratorio La Passion de Simone by Kaija Saariaho; John Adams’s Nativity oratorio El Niño; and Osvaldo Golijov’s chamber opera Ainadamar and song cycle Ayre.
It says much about Dawn Upshaw’s sensibilities as an artist and colleague that she is a favored partner of many leading musicians, including Gilbert Kalish, the Kronos Quartet, James Levine, and Esa-Pekka Salonen. In her work as a recitalist, and particularly in her work with composers, Dawn Upshaw has become a generative force in concert music, having premiered more than 25 works in the past decade. From Carnegie Hall to large and small venues throughout the world she regularly presents specially designed programs composed of lieder, contemporary works in many languages, and folk and popular music. She furthers this work in master classes and workshops with young singers at major music festivals, conservatories, and liberal arts colleges. She is the Head of the Vocal Arts Program at the Tanglewood Music Center and was the founding Artistic Director of the Vocal Arts Program at the Bard College Conservatory of Music.
A five-time Grammy® Award winner, Dawn Upshaw is featured on more than 50 recordings, including the million-selling Symphony No. 3 by Henryk Gorecki for Nonesuch Records. Her discography also includes full-length opera recordings of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro; Messiaen’s St. Francois d’Assise; Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress; John Adams’s El Niño; two volumes of Canteloube’s Songs of the Auvergne, a dozen recital recordings, and an acclaimed three-disc series of Osvaldo Golijov’s music. She received the 2014 Best Classical Vocal Solo Grammy® for Maria Schneider’s Winter Morning Walks.
Dawn Upshaw holds honorary doctorate degrees from Yale, the Manhattan School of Music, the Juilliard School, Allegheny College, and Illinois Wesleyan University. She began her career as a 1984 winner of the Young Concert Artists Auditions and the 1985 Walter W. Naumburg Competition, and was a member of the Metropolitan Opera Young Artists Development Program.
Ms. Upshaw has recorded extensively for the Nonesuch label. She may also be heard on Angel/EMI, BMG, Deutsche Grammophon, London, Sony Classical, Telarc, and on Erato and Teldec in the Warner Classics Family of labels.
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.” The Quartet has performed across five continents in the world’s most prestigious venues, including Carnegie Hall in New York; the Library of Congress in Washington; the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam; the Konzerthaus in Vienna; Tokyo’s Suntory hall; and the Sydney Opera House. Festival appearances include Aspen, the Ojai Music Festival, the Edinburgh Festival, the Kuhmo Festival in Finland, and the Seoul Spring Festival of Chamber Music.
The Quartet has launched numerous projects that reimagine the standard concert program. In 2002, they celebrated their tenth anniversary 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. Fourteen years later, they revisited Bach’s masterpiece, performing the entire work in an ambitious multimedia project at the 92nd Street Y in New York with dancers, narrated excerpts, and an installation by artist Gabriel Calatrava. Recently, the Quartet presented a second multimedia project at the Y, which juxtaposed the poetry of Wallace Stevens with late Beethoven and music by composer Martin Bresnick. Other projects have included a three-program examination of Late Style, presented at Carnegie Hall; a program surveying the music of lamentation over the last 300 years crowned by Bartók’s Second Quartet; and numerous adaptations of music from Renaissance and early Baroque, including works by Josquin, Gesualdo, Purcell, and Monteverdi.
The Quartet has been privileged to collaborate with such artists as soprano Jessye Norman, mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, as well as pianists Jonathan Biss, Richard Goode, and Mitsuko Uchida. The Quartet also maintains a strong commitment to new music, and has expanded the quartet canon by commissioning works from some of the most important composers of our time, among them Bruce Adolphe, Matthew Aucoin, Gabriela Frank, Stephen Hartke, Vijay Iyer, Steven Mackey, and Charles Wuorinen. Upcoming commissions and collaborations include a new quartet from Chinese composer Lei Liang and a viola quintet from James MacMillan.
Dedicated and highly sought after as educators, the Quartet are currently Artists-in-Residence at the Yale School of Music, where they perform in concert each semester, work closely with students in chamber music contexts, and spearhead the instruction at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival in the summers. The Quartet has given numerous master classes and workshops across the country, and returns annually to the Taos School of Music as visiting faculty. In 2013 and 2017, the Quartet assisted at the Cliburn International Piano Competition, performing quintets with competitors in the final rounds. Before coming to Yale, the Quartet served for fifteen years as Ensemble-in-Residence at Princeton University.
The Quartet has recorded extensively, releasing discs of quartets by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, as well as a recording of the Schubert cello quintet with Michael Kannen. The Quartet has also recorded music by several contemporary composers, among them Bruce Adolphe, Chou Wen-chung, Steven Mackey and Charles Wuorinen.
Awards and honors include the first Cleveland Quartet Award (1995); the Naumburg Chamber Music Award (1995); inaugural members of Chamber Music Society Two at the CMS of Lincoln Center (1996); and the Royal Philharmonic Award for Most Outstanding Debut (at Wigmore Hall in 1997.)
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.