Brentano String Quartet Plays Beethoven Op. 133, Grosse Fuge


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.

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, Netherlands, 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 soprano Jessye Norman and pianist Richard Goode.

In past seasons they  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 with Barbara Sukowa and pianist Mitsuko Uchida. They also played with great virtuosity at Kissinger Sommer, Ludwigsburger Schlossfestspiele, Festival de Fayence, Aspen Festival, Salt Bay Chamber Festival, Kuhmo Festival, Festival Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Brandenburgische Sommerkonzerte. Partners of the last concerts in New York (Carnegie Hall), Detroit, San Francisco and Pittsburgh haven been Joyce di Donato, Vijay Iyer, Ignat Solzhenitsyn and Jonathan Biss. The Brentano String Quartet will tour Europe again in March and November 2016.

Their eclectic style 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 contemporary 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 to write 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 at 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 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 (November 2011). 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.

The Brentano String Quartet featured in the movie “A late Quartet“ (featuring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Christopher Walken) which 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.

The quartet from New York will return to Europe in November 2016 (also together with pianist Jonathan Biss) and January 2018.

October 2015

s_beethovenBeethoven: The Late String Quartets Op. 127 & Op. 131
2011 – AEON – AECD 1110
String Quartet No. 12 in E flat major, Op. 127
String Quartet No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 131

s_517wqadc8yl-_ss400_Chou Wen-Chung: Clouds
2011 – MODE – 235
Boston Musica Viva
Richard Pittman – Conducto

String Quartet No. 1 (“Clouds”) / Twilight Colors, for ensemble / String Quartet No. 2 (“Streams”)

s_41vj-a-ju-l-_sl500_aa300_Wuorinen: Scherzo, First String Quartet, Viola Variations, Second Piano Quintet
2011 – NAXOS – 8559694
The quartet perform Quintet for Piano and Strings no. 2
Peter Serkin – Piano

s_index Wuorinen: Ashberyana, Fenton Songs, Josquiniana
2008 – NAXOS – 8559377
Charles Wuorinen – Conductor

The Quartet perform Josquiniana, which was written and arranged especially for them.

Mackey: “Speak Like The People, Write Like The King”

2008 – BRIDGE RECORDS – 9257
A recording of Steven Mackey’s music, in collaboration with the Borromeo Quartet

Ars Moriendi (Borromeo) / ‘Lude (Brentano) / Gaggle and Flock (Borromeo and Brentano)

Gaggle and Flock was composed to celebrate collegial bonds between the two quartets that share this recording.



The Art of Fugue (complete)

Fugues (selection)

String Quartet in F# minor op. 50 no.4

Fugues (selection)

String Quartet no.14 F# Major

String Quartet in F# minor, op. 50 no.4

String Quartet no.14 in F# Major

String Quartet in C Major, op.61



String Quartet in F# Minor op.50 no.4

String Quartet no.3

String Quartet no.14



St. Francis Auditorium, March 1st 2013

“For the Brentano String Quartet, the act of playing music has beauty as its goal. In the course of the group’s splendid concert on March 1, at St. Francis Auditorium (presented by Santa Fe Pro Musica), not a measure was less than gorgeous.”
Pasa Reviews, March 2013

Zankel Recital Hall, February 2013

The Brentano players performed with their customary control and oversize passion, earning a rousing, sustained ovation for themselves and for Mr. Mackey. Their elegance and wit were on generous display in the opening Haydn work; the concert closed with a grandiloquent account of Beethoven’s String Quartet in G (Op. 18, No. 2).
NY Times, February 2013

Kissinger Sommer Festival, Bad Kissingen Germany 2012

“À l’évidence, le quatuor affiche un intérêt prononcé pour les mondes magiques qui naissent de la liberté accordée à la musique. Alors que le Quartettsatz (« mouvement de quatuor ») de Schubert se nourrit d’une égalité des voix obtenue par une détermination frappante, le premier mouvement de Debussy représente une surface sonore vibrante plutôt qu’une expression formulée avec un grand détail. La maîtrise d’une telle expression, le quatuor la démontre également dans le deuxième et le quatrième mouvement. Toutefois, l’andantino ouvre les portes d’un monde tout à fait différent. Un monde de lumière, d’apesanteur, d’une tendresse infinie.” – Kissinger Musiksommer, Summer 2012

Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Munich, Germany 2012

“Ce quatuor n’étale pas une profusion de volumes sonores. Au contraire, il se révèle être un représentant de textures caractérisées par une extrême délicatesse. Ainsi, l’humour de Haydn a été interprété d’un ton sec et les cantilènes de l’adagio ont été chantées avec une grande élégance. Associée à une disponibilité pour d’autres perspectives de mouvement ainsi qu’à une compréhension précise des rôles dans la production sonore, cette élégance tout en retenue a transformé le quatuor de Debussy, pour reprendre les termes employés par Dukas, en un « tapis aux motifs artistiques et aux couleurs mystérieuses ». Le fait qu’il soit possible de rendre un magnifique hommage à Beethoven sans avoir recours à la passion expressionniste, mais plutôt en suivant l’esprit d’une variation complexe de volumes et d’une rapidité de réaction rythmique, a déclenché un tonnerre d’applaudissements dans le public.” – Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Munich, Germany

Bass Concert Hall, Cliburn Concerts, November 2012

“Violist Misha Amory and cellist Nina Lee have instruments that are larger, so they are always more mellow than the violins. The overall effect is a darker sound, but not heavy or dampened. The sound is flexible and can be easily adapt to the music being played…Bartók’s prickly String Quartet No. 4 sounded the most different in that its incessant and dissonant buzzing condensed into an almost physical thing that was on a sub visual level…However, once you hear the Brentano play this quartet it is forever changed in your memory and future performances will surely disappoint…Much more straight forward, the Brentano gave superlative readings of Haydn’s D minor String Quartet (Hob. III:43) and Brahms’ A minor String Quartet (Op. 51, No. 2). The Haydn was a jewel of Classicism. Vibrato was held to a subtle minimum and all of Haydn’s charm came through. The piece felt short but maybe that is because no one wanted it to end.” – Gregory Sullivan Isaacs, Theater Jones

WCR Center for the Arts and Trinity Lutheran Church – May 13, 2012

“Violinists Mark Steinberg and Serena Canin, violist Misha Amory and cellist Nina Maria Lee have become cherished friends of chamber music fans in this area during their 16 weekends here. They can be trusted to deliver passionate, intelligent and often surprising concerts, and this was no exception. (…) The graceful second movement featured beautiful cello playing, and a violin solo floating over a chorale. (…) The Brentano interpretation of the Beethoven quartet has deepened and grown more subtle over the years. (…) Their precision and gentle touch in the wonderful, clockwork third movement was breathtaking, and the tenderness and fragility of Steinberg’s violin in the Cavatina (fourth movement) made this a heartbreaking moment. The finale, beginning with a light touch, then galloping to a full-out conclusion, was stirring indeed.”
Susan L. Pena – – May 13, 2012

Wigmore Hall – Schubert, March 2010

“… the Brentanos held it together perfectly and brought out all the pathos and unrequited passion of the piece. The ensuing slow movement was generally serene and contained some gorgeous sustained playing… As an interpretation this was second to none and as a performance it ranks as one of the best performances of late Schubert I have ever heard.”
Seen and Heard UK – March 2010

Shriver Hall Concert Series, March 2009

“Performing in a burstingly energetic way while never being ragged, the Brentano’s virtuosity in all genres was remarkable, even more so considering that all are equal partners in terms of intensity and musical leadership.”
Michael Lodico – – March 2009

Alice Tully Hall, New York, February 2009

”Brentano String Quartet saved the day with Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge, delivered in brilliant, propulsive fashion.” – February 2009

Wigmore Hall Concert, January 2008

“Now 16 years old, the Brentano String Quartet must be one of the most euphonious outfits on the planet. Balance and intonation reach an almost unearthly level of perfection, yet there’s nothing inhuman about these American musicians. And their intimate embrace is marvellous: it’s as though each player is inhabiting each others’ skin.”
Geoff Brown – The Times – January 30, 2008


Beethoven: The Late String Quartets Op. 127 & Op. 131 (2011)

“Sur le plan technique; elle s’avère irréprochable … Avec des vibratos habilement variés en fonction de la ligne mélodique, une articulation ciselée et une exigence rythmique exemplaire, ils démontrent des qualités de très grand quatuor en formant une équipe aussi impressionnante sur le plan collectif qu’individuel. Une prise de son d’une luminosité et d’une transparence superbes restitue à merveille le beauté des timbres et l’agencement de leurs voix.”
Jean-Michel Molkhou, Diapason, Octobre 2011

“L’engagement des musiciens n’est en effet jamais synonyme d’épaisseur, et ils ôtent tout poids superfétatoire à la riche harmonie de Beethoven. Grace à cette distance, on redécouvre alors cette partition pourtant rabâchée; on réentend son ironie rythmique et sa fluidité mélodique … On ne peut qu’être admiratifs devant le courage des Brentano de faire fi d’une certaine tradition, qui semble glisser sur leurs instruments, et de vouloir renouveler l’audition de ces deux œuvres.”
Antoine Mignon, Classica, Octobre 2011

“Un pur cristal d’intelligence et de brillance qui fera date.”
La Gazette Nord-Pas de Calais, Octobre 2011

“Les musiciens veillent à ne pas marquer exagérément les contrastes dynamiques mais leur jeu possède du relief et leur maîtrise ne cesse de fasciner : timbres finement travaillés, qualité supérieure des phrasés, netteté des transitions.”
Sébastien Foucart, Concerto Net, Novembre 2011

Mozart: String Quartet in A major K.464, String Quintet in D major K.593 (2007)

“The Brentanos draw rapt attention to two relatively unplayed masterpieces, particularly the quintet with its rich viola at the heart”.
Classic FM Magazine – August 2007

“These players communicate a wealth of detail through their perceptive structural observation, deftly controlled ensemble, sensitive dynamic nuancing and fastidious balancing and blending of parts. They display grace, poise and commendable flexibility in conveying the melodic simplicity and regular, symmetrical phrasing of the opening Allegro of Mozart’s A major Quartet. (…) Charmingly elegant in the minuet, they revel in the richer textures of the trio and characterize the Andante’s variations with deftness and spontaneity; they excel particularly in the third variation’s dialogue between upper and lower pairs of instruments, the minore fourth variation, and the imitative fifth variation. (…) The recording combines immediacy with an attractive ambient warmth.”
The Strad – August 2007

“Sincere and temperate, the Brentanos never try to force the reading of the score … In the vast Andante from the Quartet KV 464, one can admire the tranquil mastery with which the performers unravel the development of the theme and its variations … it is difficult not to be gripped by the density of the contrapuntal fabric which they weave in the first movement of the Quintet KV 593, and by the lyrical plenitude which they bring out of the poignant Adagio. A thoroughly marvelous interpretation, harmonious and refined, matching these two masterpieces of classical perfection.”
Diapason – July-August 2007

The Brentano Quartet performs with a great deal of subtle gradation of colour and nuance … utterly convincing exciting and graceful, transparent and sensitive, moving and eloquent. Its one of those recordings that, when you play it, you find yourself thinking, I wouldn’t mind if they played this at my funeral… With a gorgeous bloom of acoustic resonance from the venue and plenty of air around the musicians, this beautifully engineered package is one with which I shall be able to live happily for a long time.”
Classical CD Reviews – MusicWeb-International – June 2007


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