Performance Friday, October 10, 2014 | 7:30 PM

Borromeo String Quartet

Weill Recital Hall
During the Borromeo String Quartet’s recent Bartók marathon, The Philadelphia Inquirer said that the musicians “performed at a high standard that brought you so deeply into the music’s inner workings that you wondered if your brain could take it all in.” Bartók is on the bill at Carnegie Hall, as well as Shostakovich and Britten. Shostakovich’s enigmatic String Quartet No. 3 shifts between high spirits and the darkly serious. Britten’s String Quartet No. 2, written to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Henry Purcell, closes with a brilliant set of variations.

Part of Salon Encores.


  • Borromeo String Quartet
    ·· Nicholas Kitchen, Violin
    ·· Kristopher Tong, Violin
    ·· Mai Motobuchi, Viola
    ·· Yeesun Kim, Cello


  • SHOSTAKOVICH String Quartet No. 3 in F Major
  • BARTÓK String Quartet No. 6
  • BRITTEN String Quartet No. 2 in C Major

Event Duration

The printed program will last approximately two hours, including one 20-minute intermission.


  • Borromeo String Quartet

    The visionary performances of the Borromeo String Quartet have established it as one of the most important string quartets of our time. Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, the Borromeo members have performed a vast repertoire worldwide and collaborated with many of today's great composers and performers. They have been the faculty ensemble-in-residence at the New England Conservatory of Music for 22 years and work extensively with the Library of Congress, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

    Audiences and critics alike have championed the Borromeo's ability to bring back the contemporary fire to often-heard repertoire, while making even the most challenging new music approachable. "To hear and see them perform has always felt to me like taking a private tour through a composer's mind," says Cathy Fuller, Classical New England host on WGBH radio. "They probe and analyze from every angle until they discover how to best unveil the psychological, physical, and spiritual states that a great piece of music evokes. They're champions of new music ... but they also thrive on making the old classics sound vital and fresh."

    The Borromeo members have been trailblazers in the use of laptop computers for reading music. This method allows them to perform entirely from four-part scores and also composers' manuscripts-a revealing and transformative experience that they now teach to students around the world. In concert, they often employ projections of handwritten manuscripts to vividly illustrate the creative process. In 2003, the Borromeo became the first classical ensemble to make its own live concert recordings and videos on tour and distribute them to audiences through the Borromeo Living Archive.

    Highlights of the ensemble's 2014-2015 season include concerts at the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society and the Incontri in Terra di Siena chamber music festival in Tuscany, a portrait concert of music by Menachem Weisenberg at Northeastern University, and a special series of summer concerts to honor the 25th anniversary of the Borromeo's celebrated artist residency at the Gardner Museum. The Library of Congress, Gardner Museum, and St. Stephen's Concert Series in North Carolina present the Borromeo's signature cycle of Bartók string quartets as well as their new "BARTÓK: PATHS NOT TAKEN" presentation, which gives audiences a once-in-a-lifetime chance to hear a set of rediscovered alternate movements that Béla Bartók wrote for his six quartets but shelved away. They join the Emerson String Quartet as the 2014-2015 Hittman ensembles-in-residence at Peabody Institute in Baltimore, and conduct substantial artist residencies at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, University of Central Arkansas, and the Taos School of Music.

    The Borromeo String Quartet has received many awards throughout its illustrious career, including Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Career Grant and Martin E. Segal Award, as well as Chamber Music America's Cleveland Quartet Award. The ensemble also won the Young Concert Artists International Auditions and top prizes at the International String Quartet Competition in Evian, France.

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Schostakovich's String Quartet No. 3 in F Major, Op. 73 (Allegretto)
Juilliard String Quartet

At a Glance

DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH  String Quartet No. 3 in F Major, Op. 73

Few composers have been as rudely buffeted by the winds of political fortune as Shostakovich. From the time his music first incurred official censure for its bourgeois “formalism” in the early 1930s, the highly strung composer played an elaborate game of feint and attack with the Soviet regime, cannily balancing his more abrasive, cutting-edge music with a stream of reassuringly patriotic and artistically conservative works. Written shortly after World War II, the Third Quartet is fundamentally tonal, but laced with the pungently dissonant harmonies and raw kinetic energy that are the composer’s hallmarks.

BÉLA BARTÓK  String Quartet No. 6

Composed in Switzerland and Hungary just before and after the outbreak of World War II, the last of Bartók’s six quartets is very much a work of its time. The prevailing mood is conveyed by the Italian word that the composer attached to each of the four movements: mesto, or “sad.” The quartet’s ritornello form, based on a recurring melody first played by the solo viola, marked a departure from the symmetrical “arch” construction of Bartók’s Fourth and Fifth quartets.

BENJAMIN BRITTEN  String Quartet No. 2 in C Major, Op. 36

Britten was intermittently drawn to the string quartet over the course of his career. Not counting a student work (composed in 1931 and belatedly published in the mid-1970s), he wrote three quartets—two in the early 1940s and the last in 1975. An homage to Henry Purcell, the Second Quartet of 1945 followed close on the heels of Britten’s opera Peter Grimes, in which he had aimed to “restore to the musical setting of the English language a brilliance, freedom, and vitality that have been curiously rare since the death of Purcell.”


Program Notes
This performance is part of Quartets Plus.

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