The Aizuri Quartet was the 2017-2018 String Quartet-in-Residence of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Throughout the season, the Quartet presented five specially-curated programs exploring a diverse range of themes, repertoire and collaborations. In “Music and Mayhem” on October 21, 2017, the Aizuri Quartet performed works composed during and in response to periods of intense political upheaval, including Sofia Gubaidulina’s String Quartet No. 4, Steve Reich’s Different Trains, and Beethoven’s Op. 74 “Harp” Quartet. On December 1, 2017, the Aizuri Quartet presented “Music and Isolation,” exploring works created during unique periods of intense isolation by Haydn, Beethoven, Hildegard von Bingen, Carlo Gesualdo and Conlon Nancarrow. In “Japan Across the World” on February 22, 2018, the Aizuri Quartet performed stunning recent works by contemporary composers of Japanese heritage – Akira Nishimura, Paul Wiancko and shakuhachi virtuoso Kojiro Umezaki – who developed their distinctive voices in different parts of the world. On March 31, 2018, the Aizuri Quartet performed Haydn’s Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross at The Cloisters in a special collaboration with the brilliant poet Denice Frohman. And finally on June 1, 2018, in collaboration with the renowned Syrian clarinetist and composer Kinan Azmeh, the Aizuri Quartet presented “Music and Migration,” a deep exploration of the theme of immigration that included music by Lembit Beecher, Komitas Vartabed, and brand new works by immigrant composers.
In September 2017, the Aizuri Quartet took part in the world premiere of Sophia’s Forest, a 65-minute chamber opera by composer Lembit Beecher and librettist Hannah Moscovitch, at the Black Box Theatre of Drexel University’s URBN Center Annex in Philadelphia. Developed through a generous grant from the The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, this project explores the way that technology can form a central and expressive role in operatic storytelling. The Quartet was also involved with the development of the opera, which focused on the interior world of 9-year-old Sophia, a recent immigrant to the United States, who uses her imagination to deal with the trauma of her experiences. Evoking Sophia’s inner thoughts and memories are nine sound-producing sculptures that form an central part of the opera’s set. These sound sculptures, built at the Drexel University ExCITe Center in collaboration with a team of architects from the University of Pennsylvania, act both as musical instruments and characters in the drama. Design and construction of the sculptures was led by Youngmoo Kim, Director of Drexel University’s ExCITe Center, in addition to architect Simon Kim and engineer Mark Yim from the University of Pennsylvania. Conducted by Nicole Paiement and directed by Brian Staufenbiel, these performances featured soprano Kiera Duffy, Maggie Finnegan, and the Aizuri Quartet.
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Debut Album with New Amsterdam
The Aizuri Quartet released its GRAMMY nominated debut album in 2018 with the Brooklyn-based label New Amsterdam Records! The album featured stunning new works written for the Quartet by some of today’s most talented and exciting composers: Caroline Shaw, Lembit Beecher, Paul Wiancko, Gabriella Smith and Yevgeniy Sharlat.
Commissions and Premieres
The Aizuri Quartet is proud to have commissioned and premiered works by Pulitzer Prize-winner Caroline Shaw (Blueprint), Paul Wiancko (LIFT), Yevgeniy Sharlat (RIPEFG), Lembit Beecher (Sophia’s Forest), Gabriella Smith (Carrot Revolution), Michi Wiancko (Murasaki’s Moon), Ilari Kaila (Jouhet), Evan Premo (Deeply Known), Rene Orth (Stripped), Alyssa Weinberg (Parallels), Andrew Lipke (My Love), Peter Askim (String Quartet 2016), Rodney Waschka (String Quartet No. 4) and Steven Dankner (String Quartet No. 19).
Coursera: The World of the String Quartet
Released on February 5, 2015, The World of the String Quartet is an online course exploring the rich history and repertoire of the string quartet. The course is hosted by Arnold Steinhardt, first violinist of the legendary Guarneri Quartet, and interpretive analysis instructor Mia Chung. Filmed at the Curtis Institute of Music, these seven hour-long educational programs feature the Aizuri Quartet performing and discussing excerpts of great string quartets from across the historical spectrum, including Beethoven’s String Quartet Op. 130, Mendelssohn’s String Quartet Op. 80, Schubert’s Death and the Maiden, the Ravel and Debussy String Quartets, Bartok’s Fifth and Sixth String Quartets, Ives’ String Quartet Nr. 1, and Schoenberg’s Second String Quartet with soprano Rachel Sterrenberg. It was an honor for the Aizuri Quartet to delve into these remarkable pieces with Arnold Steinhardt, who shares his amazing stories and unparalleled wisdom throughout the course. The World of the String Quartet is free and has reached thousands of students from over a hundred countries. To learn more or sign up, visit: https://www.coursera.org/learn/string-quartet
Passionate about music education, the Aizuri Quartet enjoys working with students and audiences of all ages in a variety of ways, and we’ve had some of our most exciting and moving musical experiences interacting with young listeners and players. Highlights of our past educational events include:
Artist-faculty at the Crowden Music Center’s Chamber Music Workshop in Berkeley, CA in July 2017. For two weeks the Aizuri Quartet guided serious high school and college string and piano students through an intensive two-week course devoted to the study of chamber music masterworks. Concurrently the Quartet also worked with and premiered new pieces by participants in the John Adams Young Composers Program Workshop.
In collaboration with the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, an interactive performance at Coleman Northwest Regional Library for young children in February 2016, and a chamber music masterclass at Temple Prep for high-school level students in March 2017. An online link to a description of the interactive performance: https://www.pcmsconcerts.org/learn/blog/inspiring-curiosity-aizuri-quartet-library
In partnership with Michael Stern’s IRIS Orchestra in Germantown, TN and the University of Memphis: a short-term residency in March 2017 that included a chamber music master class for college- and graduate-level students at the University of Memphis, a 45-minute performance-presentation for K-8th grade students at Hutchison School, group coaching and private instrumental lessons, and a joint performance of Mendelssohn’s Octet with IRIS Orchestra’s Artist Fellows C3Strings and a University of Memphis student, as part of a full-length Aizuri Quartet recital.
Chamber music master class and open Aizuri Quartet rehearsal for college-level students at Cornell University, as part of a short-term residency at Cornell in March 2017 that included a full-length recital and the world premiere of a new work by composer Stephen Dankner.
A one-week residency in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina in February 2017, which included a chamber music master class at Duke University, an hour-long visit to Kidznotes Durham (an after-school program modeled after El Sistema), an hour-long concert-conversation at Sherwood Githens Middle School, a performance and chamber music masterclass at the North Carolina Chamber Music Institute, and a performance and orchestra sectional coaching at Green Hope High School. The residency included a full-length recital presented by North Carolina State University’s ArtsNOW series, featuring the world premiere performances of string quartets by faculty composers Peter Askim and Rodney Waschka, as well as an informal concert at the famed rock venue Cat’s Cradle, presented by Jennifer Curtis’s Overtones series.
Working with the music students in a dozen middle and high schools throughout Westchester and Putnam Counties in New York as the 2015-2016 Ernst Stiefel String Quartet-in-Residence at the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts. Through concert-conversations, coachings, and playing side-by-side with the student orchestras, we explored diverse topics ranging from the roots and evolution of the string quartet genre to overcoming stage fright and embarking on careers in music. The residency periods were ten days each in November 2015 and April 2016.
As the String-Quartet-in-Residence at the Curtis Institute of Music, working with music students in Latin America and Europe throughout our Curtis on Tour travels in 2015 and 2016. Examples include coaching chamber ensembles and solo instrumentalists at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in Mexico City; the Centro Nacional de la Música in San José, Costa Rica; the Fundación de Orquestas Juveniles e Infantiles de Chile in Santiago, Chile; and the Hochschule für Künste in Bremen, Germany.
A week-long residency in Honolulu, Hawaii in February 2016, which included a full recital at the University of Hawaii, coaching chamber music and working with the composition students on their string quartets at the University, and working with middle and high school students at Kamehameha schools.
Working with the music students of the Soulsville Charter School and Hutchison School, as well as performing at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, in Memphis, Tennessee, in collaboration with IRIS Orchestra in December 2014.
Interactive performance for the Curiosity Concerts series at the Byram Shubert Library in Greenwich,Connecticut in December 2014. The Aizuris introduced a room full of young listeners and their parents to three great string quartets by exploring the themes of conversation and friendship in Mozart’s String Quartet K. 575, the ups and downs of train travel in Janacek’s Kreutzer Sonata and imagining the various shapes and forms of water and nature in Debussy’s String Quartet.
Assembly performances and Q&A’s, as well as coaching orchestral and chamber music students, at Golden Gate High School and Palmetto Ridge High School in Naples, Florida in May 2014.
Presented by LiveConnections at World Café Live in Philadelphia, the Aizuri Quartet collaborated with award-winning poet Denice Frohman and composer Andrew Lipke in an eclectic and genre-defying program that included spoken word, rock, string quartets by Debussy and Lembit Beecher, and the premiere performances of two commissioned works: Anniversary(words by Denice Frohman and music by Andrew Lipke), and Andrew Lipke’s large-scale song cycle/string quartet My Love. The Aizuri Quartet returns to LiveConnections in June 2018 for a new and exciting collaboration with renowned Syrian clarinetist and composer Kinan Azmeh.
Listen to an excerpt of “My Love” here.
In 2015 the Aizuri Quartet was a resident ensemble at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, presenting new commissions alongside works from the standard quartet literature in connection with the museum’s various special exhibitions. Three works were commissioned for the Aizuri Quartet by composers Alyssa Weinberg, Gabriella Smith and Rene Orth. Alyssa Weinberg’s “Parallels” was presented as a musical companion to the Barnes Foundation’s retrospective of the 20th Century American modernist William Glackens, and received its premiere on February 1st, 2015. Gabriella Smith’s “Carrot Revolution” was premiered at the Barnes on May 11th, 2015, in conjunction with the special exhibition “The Order of Things.” This exhibition featured three large-scale installations by renowned artists Mark Dion, Judy Pfaff, and Fred Wilson. On October 28th, 2015, Rene Orth’s string quartet “Stripped” received its premiere performance, alongside Alyssa Weinberg and Gabriella Smith’s works. This concert complemented the launch of two Fall 2015 exhibitions: “Strength and Splendor: Wrought Iron from the Musée Le Secq des Tournelles, Rouen” and “Ellen Harvey: Metal Painting.”
In C at the Kimmel Center’s Innovation Studio
The Aizuri Quartet curated two critically-acclaimed performances of Terry Riley’s In C on December 11, 2014. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Terry Riley’s groundbreaking minimalist composition, the Kimmel Center’s SEI Innovation Studio was transformed into a social, lounge-like space that offered musicians and audience members a completely immersive experience of the piece. Featuring “in-the-round” performances by the Aizuri Quartet, members of eighth blackbird, and the Curtis Institute of Music’s 20/21 Ensemble, audiences were treated to a multimedia soundscape hearkening to 1964.
Check out a couple of lovely accounts of the evening here:
Broad Street Review: http://www.broadstreetreview.com/music/terry-rileys-in-c-at-the-kimmel-center
Philadelphia Inquirer: http://articles.philly.com/2014-12-14/news/57015325_1_david–lang-singers-deconstructed-music