Brahms, Schumann, acclaim: new CD by quartet-in-residence

Thursday, April 24, 2014
From left: Zakarias Grafilo, Frederick Lifsitz, Joyce Yang, Paul Yarbrough and Sandy Wilson. Photo by Shirley Singer.

The Alexander String Quartet, SF State’s longtime quartet-in-residence, add to its decades of accomplishments with its latest CD, a collaboration with pianist Joyce Yang featuring early piano quintets by Johannes Brahms and Robert Schumann.

The Foghorn Classics release has caught the ear of several music critics, including Vivien Schweitzer of The New York Times.

“Alongside her burgeoning career as a soloist and concerto performer, the pianist Joyce Yang has also demonstrated impressive gifts as a chamber musician,” she writes in a brief review published April 9. “Here she joins the excellent Alexander String Quartet for passionate, soulful readings of two pinnacles of the chamber repertory.”

Fanfare magazine’s Jerry Dubins writes: “The Alexander’s Schumann is indeed breathtaking, as much for its sweeping lyricism and emotional responsiveness to the music’s impassioned Romantic gestures, as for its technical precision, ensemble balance, and tonal bloom .... The Brahms Quintet, too, is special. The hair-on-fire Scherzo, in particular, is a guided tour through Brahms’ rhythmic arsenal.”

The CD begins with Schumann’s Quintet for Piano and Strings in E-flat Major, Op. 44, followed by Brahms’ Quintet for Piano and Strings in F minor, Op. 34. Yang and the Alexander String Quartet performed the latter on campus in November, in an afternoon recital presented by the Morrison Chamber Music Center in association with Music at Kohl Mansion. The quartet and Yang recorded the CD over four days, under the helm of Grammy Award-winning producer Judith Sherman.

Alexander String Quartet

The Alexander String Quartet, at SF State since 1989, has performed in the major music capitals of five continents, securing its standing among the world’s premier ensembles over three decades. Widely admired for its interpretations of Beethoven, Mozart and Shostakovich, the quartet has also established itself as an important advocate of new music through more than 25 commissions and numerous premiere performances. The Alexander String Quartet is a major artistic presence in San Francisco, serving as directors of the Morrison Chamber Music Center at SF State and ensemble-in-residence of San Francisco Performances.

Joyce Yang

Described as “the most gifted young pianist of her generation” with a “million-volt stage presence” pianist Joyce Yang captivates audiences across the globe with her stunning virtuosity combined with heartfelt lyricism and interpretive sensitivity.



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