The Tokyo String Quartet has captivated audiences and critics alike since it was founded 40 years ago. Regarded as one of the supreme chamber ensembles of the world, the Tokyo Quartet-Martin Beaver and Kikuei Ikeda (violins), Kazuhide Isomura (viola) and Clive Greensmith (cello)-has collaborated with a remarkable array of artists and composers, built a comprehensive catalogue of critically acclaimed recordings and established a distinguished teaching record. Performing over a hundred concerts worldwide each season, the quartet has a devoted international following across the globe.
The season opened with a new piece by Peter Sculthorpe co-commissioned with the Flinders Quartet. “String Quartet No. 18” was performed at the Edinburgh Festival in September, a UK premiere. Touring Germany, Switzerland, Austria, France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, and The Netherlands, the quartet performs Haydn at the Schloss Esterhazy in Austria where Haydn premiered many of his works, and reprises their 1970 debut program of Berg, Beethoven and Bartok at London’s Wigmore Hall in celebration of their 40th anniversary. In Japan, in addition to performances in Nagoya, Kobe and Tokyo, the ensemble returns to teach and perform at the Chamber Music Seminar in Toyama at the Toho Gakuen Graduate School of Music.
At New York’s 92nd St. Y, where it is in residence, the Tokyo Quartet performs Beethoven’s revered quartet cycle for a third season. Joined by four distinguished pianists offering key piano sonatas from the same period, the ensemble will play the composer’s monumental “Late Period” quartets. Bringing the conclusion of the Beethoven cycle to Canadian audiences as well, the quartet is welcomed back for what will be its 41st and 42nd concerts for Music Toronto.
Collaborations this season include quintet performances with Lynn Harrell, David Watkin, Sabine Meyer, Leon Fleischer, Jeremy Denk and Emanuel Ax. The quartet will play Mozart’s viola quintets with Naoko Shimizu, Roberto Diaz and Michael Tree, among other violists, in the US, Italy and at Tokyo’s Oji Hall.
Deeply committed to coaching young string quartets, the quartet devotes much of the summer to the prestigious Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, having served on the faculty of the Yale School of Music as quartet-in-residence since 1976. This year’s festivals also include the Edinburgh Festival, the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo, Japan, Festival Casals in Puerto Rico, the Bath and Dresden Festivals and La Jolla’s SummerFest.
The Tokyo String Quartet has released more than 40 landmark recordings on Harmonia Mundi, BMG/RCA Victor Red Seal, Angel-EMI, CBS Masterworks, Deutsche Grammophon and Vox Cum Laude, including the complete quartets of Beethoven, Schubert and Bartak. The quartet’s recordings of Brahms, Debussy, Dvorak, Haydn, Mozart, Ravel and Schubert have earned such honors as the Grand Prix du Disque Montreux, “Best Chamber Music Recording of the Year” awards from both Stereo Review and Gramophone magazines and seven Grammy nominations.
The Tokyo Quartet’s recent recordings under the exclusive Harmonia Mundi label have received high praise; the third volume of Beethoven’s Op. 74 and Op. 95 quartets quickly climbed the Billboard charts and was named “Outstanding Recording” by the International Record Review. Beethoven’s ‘Late Quartets’, completing the entire cycle, were released in the Fall and have been awarded IRR’s “Outstanding” as well as the French critics’ accolade, “Diapason d’Or”.
The Tokyo String Quartet has been featured on numerous television programs, including “Sesame Street,” “CBS Sunday Morning,” PBS’s “Great Performances,” “CNN This Morning” and a national television broadcast from the Corcoran Gallery of Art, as well as on the soundtrack for the Sidney Lumet film Critical Care, starring Kyra Sedgwick and James Spader.
The ensemble performs on the “Paganini Quartet”, a group of renowned Stradivarius instruments named for legendary virtuoso Niccolo Paganini, who acquired and played them during the 19th century. The instruments have been on loan to the ensemble from the Nippon Music Foundation since 1995, when they were purchased from the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Officially formed in 1969 at the Juilliard School of Music, the Tokyo String Quartet traces its origins to the Toho School of Music in Tokyo, where the founding members were profoundly influenced by Professor Hideo Saito. Instilled with a deep commitment to chamber music, the original members of what would become the Tokyo String Quartet eventually came to America for further study with Robert Mann, Raphael Hillyer and Claus Adam. Soon after its formation, the quartet won First Prize at the Coleman Competition, the Munich Competition and the Young Concert Artists International Auditions. An exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon firmly established it as one of the world’s leading quartets.