Performance Thursday, April 19, 2012 | 7:30 PM

Brentano String Quartet

Weill Recital Hall
On this final night of its three-concert series in Weill Recital Hall, the Brentano String Quartet performs Busoni’s powerful Second String Quartet and focuses on two late masterpieces by Beethoven. London’s Independent has hailed the group’s approach to the Op. 130 quartet as “passionate, uninhibited, and spell-bounding.” Together with the Große Fuge, it’s part of a season finale not to be missed.


  • Brentano String Quartet
    ·· Mark Steinberg, Violin
    ·· Serena Canin, Violin
    ·· Misha Amory, Viola
    ·· Nina Lee, Cello


  • BUSONI String Quartet No. 2
  • BEETHOVEN String Quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 130, with Große Fuge, Op. 133


  • Brentano String Quartet

    Since its inception in 1992, the Brentano String Quartet has appeared throughout the world to popular and critical acclaim. Within a few years of its formation, the quartet garnered the first Cleveland Quartet Award and the Naumburg Chamber Music Award. In 1996, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center invited the Brentano Quartet to be the inaugural members of Chamber Music Society Two, a program that has become a coveted distinction for chamber groups and individuals ever since. The quartet made its first European tour in 1997, and was honored in the UK with the Royal Philharmonic Award for Most Outstanding Debut. That debut recital was at London's Wigmore Hall, where the quartet has since appeared regularly and served as the hall's quartet-in-residence during the 2000-2001 season.

    In recent seasons, the Brentano Quartet has traveled widely, appearing throughout the US, Canada, Europe, Japan, and Australia. It has performed in the world's most prestigious venues, including Carnegie Hall and Alice Tully Hall in New York; the Library of Congress in Washington, DC; the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam; the Konzerthaus in Vienna; Suntory Hall in Tokyo; and the Sydney Opera House. The quartet has participated in summer festivals such as Aspen, the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, the Edinburgh Festival, the Kuhmo Festival in Finland, the Taos School of Music, and the Caramoor Festival. Beginning in June 2013, the quartet will serve as the collaborative ensemble for the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, succeeding the Takács Quartet.

    In addition to performing the entire two-century range of the standard quartet repertoire, the Brentano Quartet has a strong interest in both very old and very new music. It has performed many musical works that pre-date the string quartet as a medium, among them madrigals of Gesualdo, fantasias of Purcell, and secular vocal works of Josquin. Also, the quartet has worked closely with some of the most important composers of our time, among them Elliott Carter, Charles Wuorinen, Chou Wen-chung, Steven Mackey, Bruce Adolphe, and György Kurtág. The quartet has commissioned works from Wuorinen, Adolphe, Mackey, David Horne, and Gabriela Frank. The quartet celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2002 by commissioning 10 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. A similar project, titled Fragments: Connecting Past and Present, commemorates its 20th anniversary in 2011-2012. The quartet has also worked with the celebrated poet Mark Strand, commissioning poetry from him to accompany works of Haydn and Webern.

    The Brentano Quartet has collaborated with such artists as soprano Jessye Norman, pianist Richard Goode, and pianist Mitsuko Uchida, with whom it enjoys an especially close relationship, appearing with her on stages in the US, Europe, and Japan.

    The quartet has recorded Haydn's Op. 71 string quartets and has also recorded a Mozart disc for Aeon Records, consisting of the Quartet, K. 464, and the Quintet, K. 593, with violist Hsin-Yun Huang. A forthcoming release on Aeon will feature Beethoven's quartets, Op. 127 and Op. 131. In the area of newer music, the Brentano Quartet has released a disc of the music of Steven Mackey on Albany Records, and has also recorded the music of Bruce Adolphe, Chou Wen-chung, and Charles Wuorinen.

    In 1998, cellist Nina Maria Lee joined the Brentano Quartet, succeeding founding member Michael Kannen. The following season, the quartet became the first resident string quartet at Princeton University. The quartet's duties at Princeton are wide-ranging, including performances at least once a semester, as well as workshops with graduate composers, coaching undergraduates in chamber music, and assisting in other classes at the music department.

    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. Visit for more information.

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Mozart String Quartet in A Major, K. 464 (Menuet)
Brentano String Quartet

At a Glance

FERRUCCIO BUSONI  String Quartet No. 2, Op. 26

In the realm of chamber music, Busoni's name is not a common sight. Written early in his career, the Second Quartet is the work of a brilliant young mind mulling over several powerful currents from the musical past while embracing the spirit of his own times: Its polyphonic textures and gestures evoke the work of Bach, Beethoven, and Schumann; at the same time, his extremely chromatic style foreshadows the work of younger contemporaries, including Max Reger and Alexander Zemlinsky.

LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN  String Quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 130, with Große Fuge, Op. 133

Beethoven's 16 string quartets have long been regarded as the Mount Everest of the genre, the lofty pinnacle that composers have since aspired to reach. His five late-period quartets pose special challenges and offer commensurate rewards for listeners and performers. The quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 130, is laid out in six movements of strikingly diverse characters. In its first incarnation, the quartet culminated in a resplendent display of contrapuntal fireworks. Under prodding from his publisher, however, Beethoven spun the Große Fuge off as a separate opus and replaced it with a more conventional, listener-friendly Allegro. Tonight, we hear the composition performed with its original ending.

Program Notes
This concert and the Brentano String Quartet series are made possible, in part, by an endowment fund for young artists established by Mr. and Mrs. Anthony B. Evnin and the A.E. Charitable Foundation.
This performance is part of Brentano String Quartet.

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