Brentano String Quartet  - Biography

Brentano String Quartet

Brentano String Quartet
© Jürgen Frank

Brentano String Quartet

Mark Steinberg - violin

Serena Canin - violin

Misha Amory - viola

Nina Maria Lee - violoncello

Since its inception in 1992, the Brentano String Quartet has been singled out for its technical brilliance, musical insight and stylistic elegance. Within a year’s time, the Brentano String Quartet claimed the distinction of being named to three major awards, winning the first Cleveland Quartet Award, the 1995 Naumburg Chamber Music Award and the 10th Annual Martin E. Segal Award.

For its first appearance in Great Britain at Wigmore Hall the Brentano was awarded with the Royal Philharmonic Society Music Award for the most outstanding debut in 1997. The Quartet became the first quartet-in-residence at Princeton University in 1999, and served as quartet-in-residence at New York University from 1995. In the same year they were chosen by The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center to participate in the inaugural season of Chamber Music Society Two - a program designed for outstanding emerging artists and chamber musicians.

Their eclectism and wish to go beyond the boundaries of the standard string quartet repertoire have led the quartet to perform both Renaissance and early music pieces with transcriptions of, for example, Gesualdo and Monteverdi’s Madrigals, Fantasias of Purcell and secular works by Josquin des Prés. In the contemporary field, the Brentanos regularly collaborate with living composers among others Elliot Carter (†) and György Kurtág and interpreted commissioned works by Milton Babbitt, Chou Wen-Chung, Charles Wuorinen, Bruce Adolphe, Steven Mackey and Jonathan Dawe. To commemorate their tenth anniversary, the quartet commissioned ten composers who wrote a piece inspired by and to be interwoven with excerpts of Bach’s “Art of the Fugue”. The Quartet has also worked with the celebrated poet and winner of the Pulitzer-prize Mark Strand, commissioning poetry from him to accompany works of Haydn and Webern. This program was given at the Mozartwoche in Salzburg for the first time in Europe in the beginning of 2005. For their project called “Fragments” the musicians combined incomplete works by composers such as Mozart, Schubert, Bach and Shostakovich with contemporary compositions among others by Sofia Gubaidulina and Bruce Adolphe.

The Quartet performs extensively, both in North America where all its members reside, as well as on stages in Europe, Japan and Australia (England, Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy, Nether-lands, Greece) and international festivals like, Edinburgh, Bath, De Divonne, Kuhmo, Mozartwoche in Salzburg and many others. Enjoying an especially close relationship with Mitsuko Uchida they regularly appear with her in the United States, Europe and Japan. Other prestigious artists they have worked with include the sopranos Jessye Norman and Joyce DiDonato, as well as pianist Richard Goode.

In past seasons it appeared to great acclaim among others at the Carnegie Hall, Wigmore Hall, Barbican Center London, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Konzerthaus in Vienna and Berlin, Stuttgart Liederhalle, Suntory Hall in Tokyo, Sydney Opera House as well as in Cologne, Hamburg, Basel, Geneva, Madrid and in Copenhagen. They also played with great virtuosity at Ludwigsburger Schlossfestspiele, Festival de Fayence, Aspen Festival, Salt Bay Chamber Festival, Kuhmo Festival, Festival Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Brandenburgische Sommerkonzerte. Partners of concerts in New York (Carnegie Hall), Detroit, San Francisco and Pittsburgh haven been Joyce di Donato, Vijay Iyer, Ignat Solzhenitsyn and Jonathan Biss. A highlight of the 15/16 season was a performance installation of the Art of the Fugue created by the Brentano Quartet and Gabriel Calatrava, with choreography by John-Mario Sevilla and lighting design by John Kelly.

After performing at the biennales in Paris and Amsterdam, together with Joyce DiDonato at London Wigmore Hall, as well as in Berlin, Geneva, Oslo, Rom and Lucerne, the renowned New York Brentano String Quartet will be invited among others to Florence, Madrid and Cologne.

The Brentano Quartet has released their first CD featuring Mozart’s quartet K. 464 and his Quintet K. 593 recorded with viola player Hsin-Yun Huang, for the French label AEON, with whom they pursued their collaboration with the recording of the late Beethoven string quartets. Prior to this, the quartet had released a CD with Haydn’s Op. 71 as well as a recording of Steven Mackey’s music, the latter for Albany records. In 2016, a live recording of Schubert’s String Quintet (with Michael Kannen) has been released by Azica.

The Brentano String Quartet played in the movie “A late Quartet“ (featuring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Christopher Walken) who was premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Since 2014, the Brentano String Quartet is the new Quartet-in-Residence at the Yale School of Music succeeding the Tokyo String Quartet.

The Quartet is named after Antonie Brentano, whom many scholars consider to be Beethoven’s “Immortal Beloved”, the intended recipient of his famous love confession.