Alexander String Quartet
William KanengiserGuitar

Alexander String Quartet & William Kanengiser
Zakarias Grafilo, violin
Frederick Lifsitz, violin
David Samuel, viola
Sandy Wilson, cello

Friday, July 16, 2021 | 7:30pm

Herbst TheatreVenue InformationSan Francisco


About This Performance

William Kanengiser of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet joins the Alexander String Quartet for the US premiere of Sting and Dusan Bogdanovich’s Prism—Six Songs by Sting. The program, entitled British Invasion also features works by Leo Brouwer, Ian Krouse and John Dowland.

Artist Information

Performer Biographies

William Kanengiser has forged a career that expands the possibilities of the classical guitar. A prize-winner in major competitions (1987 Concert Artists Guild International Competition, Toronto Guitar ’81) he has toured throughout North America, Asia, and Europe with his innovative programs and expressive musicianship. He recorded four CDs for the GSP label, playing music as diverse as Caribbean, Eastern European, and jazz. A member of the guitar faculty at the USC Thornton School of Music since 1983, he has given master classes around the world and produced two instructional videos. Most recently, he performed the U.S. premiere of Folk Concerto by Clarice Assad, with fellow Los Angeles Guitar Quartet member Scott Tennant, and the Albany Symphony conducted by David Allan Miller.

An active proponent of new music, he recently received a grant from the Augustine Foundation for his Diaspora Project, commissioning seven new works focusing on issues of migration and assimilation. It includes new pieces by Sergio Assad, Dusan Bogdanovic, Golfam Khayam, and others. An advocate for musicians, wellness, he serves as Chair of the Thornton Musician’s Wellness Committee, curating their Wellness Initiative with health screenings and a lecture series, as well as creating a Musician’s Wellness course.

A prolific arranger, he has created dozens of transcriptions for solo guitar and guitar quartet, and composed a number of works for four guitars. In 2009 he created the stage production The Illustrious Gentleman Don Quixote for narrator and guitar quartet, writing the stage script and adapting music from the Spanish Renaissance. It was premiered with Monty Python member John Cleese, and extensively toured with Firesign Theater founder Phil Proctor.

As a founding member of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, William Kanengiser has given hundreds of recitals and concerto appearances around the world and has recorded over a dozen releases. Their Telarc release LAGQ Latin was nominated for a Grammy, and it was their Telarc title LAGQ’S Guitar Heroes which won a Grammy in 2005 as the best classical crossover recording. Most recently, their recording of the title work on Pat Metheny’s Road to the Sun hit #1 on the Apple Music Classical chart.

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.

Artist Videos

William Kanengiser Plays Dusan Bogdanovic’s Three African Sketches

Alexander String Quartet—Front Row Sanctuary: Brahms