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The A to Z of Carnegie Hall: Q is for Quartet

A recent installment of the A to Z of Carnegie Hall series focused on orchestras. In this one we look at Q–for "quartet."

Even in the Early Days

Our concert records show that Carnegie Hall has seen well over 600 classical and jazz quartets grace its stages since it opened. As early as October 1891, the Beethoven String Quartet performed a concert here. That ensemble proved to be popular in the early years of the Hall, performing 11 times more in the subsequent few years. Another early Carnegie Hall headliner of the form was the Dannreuther Quartet, which performed 14 times between 1895 and 1910. Its founder and leader Gustav Dannreuther was also a member of Walter Damrosch's New York Symphony Society. Other notable string quartets of the day to have played regularly at Carnegie Hall was the New York Symphony String Quartet derived from Damrosch's orchestra and the Kneisel Quartet, which appeared here eight times between 1892 and 1902.

Program for the final Carnegie Hall concert by the Kneisel Quartet, which took place more than 110 year ago on February 23, 1902. Courtesy of the Carnegie Hall Archives.

The Classical Heavyweights

Although many hundreds of classical quartets have performed on all three stages at Carnegie Hall, some ensembles stand out as having sustained relationships with the Hall and its audiences. Since the middle of the 20th century, a handful of the most recognizable names in chamber music have performed here multiple times. The Guarneri Quartet (30), the Juilliard String Quartet (30), Kronos Quartet (32), and the Emerson String Quartet (33) have each performed at Carnegie Hall over a period of several decades.

Autographed photographs of the Juilliard String Quartet separated by 24 years—1966 and 1990. Courtesy of the Carnegie Hall Archives.

During a 2010 Carnegie Hall Professional Training Workshop, Kronos Quartet founder and violinist David Harrington describes the early days of the ensemble.

The Jazz Heavyweights

Although probably most closely associated with classical quartets, Carnegie Hall has seen some of the biggest names in jazz foursomes come through the doors. Beginning in 1954, the legendary Dave Brubeck and his quartet have performed here as many times as Kronos Quartet. The influential Modern Jazz Quartet—which included Milt Jackson—performed at the Hall 23 times, including concerts before and after its split and reformation. The Gerry Mulligan Quartet played the first of its four concerts in 1954 and the last in 1993. Thelonious Monk and his quartet performed here five times between 1957 and 1976. Other jazz greats whose foursomes have performed at the Hall include Hilton Ruiz, Lionel Hampton, Nina Simone, Zoot Sims, and Ornette Coleman. The famous 1957 Thanksgiving Jazz concert saw Monk, Sims, and the Jackson's Modern Jazz Quartet all perform on the same bill.

Click images to enlarge. Clockwise from top left: flyer for 1957's Thanksgiving Jazz superstar lineup concert, alternative flyer for that concert, flyer for Nina Simone's April concert in the same year, and a flyer for the Dave Brubeck Quartet's February 1963 concert. Courtesy of the Carnegie Hall Archives.

Rock and Pop Quartets?

We've had these, too! Check back in a few days for more.

The A to Z of Carnegie Hall
History of the Hall

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