Martin Beaver – Violin
Kikuei Ikeda - Violin
Kazuhide Isomura – Viola
Clive Greensmith – Violoncello
The Tokyo String Quartet has captivated audiences and critics alike since it was founded 42 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 Tokyo String Quartet has a devoted international following across the globe.
In residence at New York's 92nd St. Y, the Tokyo launches a two-season project performing quartets by the ground-breaking composer Bela Bartók alongside those of Haydn, the beloved "father" of the string quartet. Other U.S. highlights include concerts in Philadelphia, Princeton, San Francisco, Detroit, Kansas City, Champaign-Urbana and at The Kennedy Center.
Long embraced by audiences in such international cities as Cologne, Madrid, Vienna, Copenhagen, London, Paris and Milan, the ensemble also returns this season to play in Poland, Latvia and Armenia, and performs for the first time in Moskow's Pushkin Museum. In Madrid, the program will revisit two commissions: Primera Luz by Lera Auerbach from 2006, and A Way A Lone by Toru Takemitsu, written for the quartet's tenth anniversary. A new work by Auerbach will be commissioned next season.
The quartet looks forward to performing the Brahms Piano Quintet with Andreas Haefliger at Wigmore Hall and Markus Groh in Toronto; Brahms and Dvorák Piano Quintets with Louis Lortie in Bergamo; and in the U.S., Mozart's Oboe Quartet K. 370 with Eugene Isotov and the Brahms Piano Quintet with Alon Goldstein.
Deeply committed to coaching young string quartets, the Tokyo 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.
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 Bartók. The quartet's recordings of Brahms, Debussy, Dvorák, 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.
Recent recordings under the exclusive Harmonia Mundi label have been highly praised; the four sets of discs comprising the Beethoven cycle have garnered such accolades as "Outstanding Recording" by the International Record Review and the French critics' "Diapason d'Or". A new recording of the Schubert String Quintet in C Major with cellist David Watkin will be released in November 2011.
The ensemble performs on the "Paganini Quartet", a group of renowned Stradivarius instruments named for legendary virtuoso Niccolò 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.
The Tokyo String Quartet is represented by Intermusica.
August 2011 / 610 words. Not to be altered without permission. Please destroy all previous biographical material.
Wigmore Hall / Haydn, Debussy and Brahms
“The performance of Haydn’s late String Quartet Op 77 No 1 was brilliantly idiomatic, and flawless from start to finish; following that with Debussy’s G minor quartet, they took us into a dramatically different sound-world. Bidding us farewell with Brahm’s Piano Quintet Op 34 they went out in a blaze of magnificence.”
The Independent, April 2012
Beethoven String Quartets Nos. 12-16 (Harmonia Mundi), awarded Diapason d’Or
“These records constitute the most impressive set of the late Beethoven quartets I have heard for many years. Quartet No. 12 is given a reading which I have never heard surpassed: the Adagio ma non troppo e molto cantabile and the astonishing finale are here played as near to perfection as it is possible to achieve….No matter how many recordings of these works you may have in your collection, I urge you to add this outstanding new set.”
International Record Review, November 2010
“Divine Inspiration…The Tokyo Quartet rise to the greatest musical challenge”
, November 2010
Tour of Australia performing Haydn, Beethoven, Mendessohn and Brahms
“Musical integrity, rather than theatricality, lies at the heart of the Tokyo String Quartet's approach and it is more than worthy of its status as one of the world's great quartets.”
The Australian, June 2009
Janáček String Quartet Number 2 “Intimate Letters”/ Auckland Town Hall
“The Tokyo String Quartet had such a unity of purpose and ensemble that journeying through the shifting emotional states of this volatile score had the immediacy of a night at the theatre, or relaxing under the spell of a master tale-teller.”
The New Zealand Herald, June 2009
Beethoven/Mendelssohn/Carl Vine / Wellington Town Hall
You can count on not much more than one hand the string quartets that are considered capable of creating magical and soul-moving experiences. The Tokyo Quartet is certainly one.
The Dominion Post, June 2009
"If the Tokyo String Quartet isn't the world's greatest chamber music ensemble, it's hard to imagine which group is."
The Washington Post
"Few string ensembles sound as graceful in Mozart as the Tokyo Quartet. In the opening passages of the B flat major quartet, K589, it seemed that Martin Beaver's sweet, refined violin sound carried down through the viola and into that of the cello without any noticeable change. This made for an elegant and eloquent performance…"
"Breathless pianissimos, a full spectrum of impressionistic colours and extraordinarily intense passion demonstrated that the new-look Tokyo is going to be every bit as outstanding as its predecessor".
"What was so impressive was the way the Tokyo Quartet handled every aspect of Beethoven's artistic evolution so surely, yet remained true to its own artistic profile as well. The [Grosse Fugue, Op.133] was so beautifully done. It was played more accurately than this writer has ever heard it".
The New York Times
"Not merely in balance, but in intimate details, in phrasing, and that kind of breathing together that the best quartets achieve, their playing had all the marks of greatness".
The Washington Post
"There can be few recordings of this music as breathtakingly polished as this one".
Beethoven Middle String Quartets / BMG 60462-2
"The Tokyo Quartet's set of the middle-period quartets is among the most impressive to have appeared in recent years. Their technical finesse, spot-on intonation and superb ensemble are all the more impressive for being at the service of the music".
"Alert and unanimous as ever, the Tokyo String Quartet played to a full house last night. The particular achievement was their Beethoven (Op. 127). Every movement developed with depth and composure. This was quartet-playing of the highest order".
The Financial Times
"All of the emotional and explosive qualities of Beethoven's music were present, but were also shrouded in boundless tenderness and universal wisdom. The Tokyo Quartet, at this moment one of the best string quartets in the world, approached Beethoven with unprecedented respect, technically almost perfect and musically with staggering insight and utterly refined".
NRC Handelsblad, Hamburg
"The two new players are entirely worthy of the tradition they inherit; this was quartet playing of the highest order…wonderfully expressive flexibility (Ravel)…near-miraculous shading…dazzling display of antiphonal exchanges (Beethoven)…TRULY FABULOUS PLAYING".
Ravel, Haydn, Beethoven / Queen's Hall, Edinburgh
"T for Tokyo, T for terrific… superb musicianship…Technique but not trickery, passion but not sentiment - a brilliant and illuminating account".
Webern / Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
"The performance of Webern's Op.5 was scarcely short of miraculous…an uncanny ability to balance the demands of the acoustic reality…The distinction of the interpretation was the beauty in the phrasing and colouring of those elegiac melodic lines which are as expressive as a whole movement by anyone else".
Brahms / Barbican Centre, London
"Brahms Op.51/2 exuded warmth and cameraderie, the phrasing of its glowing melodies and the articulation of its lively rhythms perfectly integrated into an interpretation which displayed the special qualities of this superlative ensemble at their most persuasive and convincing."
"Quartet playing of the greatest perfection."
Brahms Clarinet Quintet / Stoltzman / BMG 68033-2
"In terms of sheer sonority, the Tokyo Quartet is probably unsurpassed. What makes it so especially outstanding here is the absolute identity of sound, spirit and musical function."
Ravel & Debussy / BMG 62552-2
"This is playing of entrancing refinement, but beauty is never achieved at the expense of musical truth."
Bartók complete quartets / BMG 68286-2
"The Tokyo have the edge; their searing intensity, acute sense of colour and total commitment to each score combine for maximum impact."