Thursday, Centre College’s Norton Center for the Arts will present the Brentano String Quartet in a program of Bach, Busoni, and Beethoven.
Since its inception in 1992, the Brentano String Quartet has appeared throughout the world to critical acclaim and is named for Antonie Brentano, whom many scholars consider to be Beethoven’s “Immortal Beloved,” the intended recipient of his famous love confession.
The group includes Mark Steinberg on violin, Serena Canin also on violin, Misha Amory on viola and cellist Nina Lee.
Brentano’s Norton Center debut will include Bach’s “Art of Fugue” and “Contrapunctus XVIII,” Busoni’s “String Quartet No. 2, Op. 26,” and conclude with Beethoven’s “String Quartet in B flat, Op. 130,” with Grosse Fuge ending, Op. 133.
“Exemplifying solid music making, the Brentano String Quartet not only offers amazing concerts, they provide a depth of understanding and meaning to the concerts through thoughtful and insightful lecture-demonstrations,” said Norton Center for the Arts Executive Director Steve Hoffman. “We are very fortunate to have this long-standing resident quartet of Princeton share their art and talent in the intimate Norton Center setting, both during the day of the performance and for the performance itself.”
Within a few years of its formation, the Quartet garnered the first Cleveland Quartet Award and the Naumburg Chamber Music Award; and in 1996 the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center invited it 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 had its first European tour in 1997, and was honored in the U.K. with the Royal Philharmonic Award for Most Outstanding Debut. That debut recital was at London’s Wigmore Hall, and the quartet has continued its warm relationship with Wigmore, appearing there regularly and serving as the hall’s Quartet-in-Residence in the 2000-01 season.
“Passionate, uninhibited and spellbinding,” writes The London Independent; The New York Times extols the Brentano’s “luxuriously warm sound (and) yearning lyricism”; the Philadelphia Inquirer praises its “seemingly infallible instincts for finding the center of gravity in every phrase and musical gesture”; and The Times (London) opines, “the Brentanos are a magnificent string quartet. ...This was wonderful, selfless music-making.”
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 pre-dating 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 Elliot 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 tenth 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 called “Fragments — connecting past and present” will commemorate their 20th anniversary in 2011-’12. For this program they have commissioned six composers to write works informed by incomplete pieces left behind by previous masters.
The quartet also has worked with the celebrated poet Mark Strand, commissioning poetry from him to accompany works of Haydn and Webern.
The quartet has been privileged to collaborate with such artists as soprano Jessye Norman, pianist Richard Goode, and pianist Mitsuko Uchida. The quartet enjoys an especially close relationship with Uchida, appearing with her on stages in the United States, Europe and Japan.
In 1998, cellist Nina Lee joined the 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 the university 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 Brentano String Quartet will perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Newlin Hall. Tickets, $18-$35, are on sale now and can be purchased on the web at www.NortonCenter. com or by calling the box office at (877) 448-7469.
SO YOU KNOW
All events with the Brentano String Quartet Thursday are in Newlin Hall and free.
- At 11:20 a.m., the quartet will play parts of its program for the evening and discuss the use of the fugue in Bach and Beethoven. This will last about one hour. This event is geared to the entire first-year student body that takes Humanities 120 class and are studying Bach Fugues and Beethoven, as well as being open to the public.
- At 3:30 p.m., the members of the quartet will discuss their lives as professional, touring musicians, and speak about their rehearsal process and their travel. They also will play excerpts of pieces and talk about their preparation for a performance. This event is most geared to those who are interested in music as a profession but may be of interest to anyone.