The Tokyo Quartet untangles Beethoven's complex Grosse Fuge at WQXR's Greene Space.

The Tokyo Quartet untangles Beethoven's complex Grosse Fuge at WQXR's Greene Space. Pete Checchia/Courtesy of the artists hide caption

itoggle caption Pete Checchia/Courtesy of the artists

Classics in Concert

Chamber Music In The Greene Space: The Tokyo String QuartetWQXR

Listen

Listen

Loading…

1:10:55
  • Playlist
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/135218789/135446109" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">

The devastation in Japan has brought attention to one facet of the country's cultural life: its vibrant classical music heritage. As the Montreal Gazette recently reported, the world's third-largest economy encompasses the world's second-largest music market. And, unlike the more recent boom in China, Japan's classical heritage reaches back decades.

The Tokyo String Quartet is a prime example. Formed in 1969 by four Japanese musicians studying at the Juilliard School of Music, they trace their origins to the Toho School of Music in Tokyo, where the founding members studied under Hideo Saito, the legendarily skilled and tyrannical pedagogue. The ensemble was at first a casual endeavor — a "study quartet" — but it got serious quickly.

A series of awards came in the early 1970s. In 1976, they joined the faculty of the Yale School of Music. Television appearances (on Sesame Street, CBS Sunday Morning and PBS's Great Performances) followed, recalling the days when mass media exposure was a routine feature of quartet life.

As with most major string quartets, personnel changes have reshaped the ensemble even down to its ethnic identity. These days, there are two non-Japanese players: the British cellist Clive Greensmith, who joined in 2000, and Canadian Martin Beaver, who joined as first violinist in 2002. Second violinist Kikuei Ikeda joined in 1974, while violist Kazuhide Isomura is the group's remaining original member.

Adventures in obscure and modern repertory have never been the Tokyo String Quartet's main focus. Yet, over the years, the group's cycles of Beethoven and Brahms, Mozart and Haydn have been widely respected, as have their detours in Bartók, Janácek and Barber. Last fall, the quartet released the fourth and final volume of its Beethoven string quartet series on the Harmonia Mundi label, which received the French "Diapason d'Or" critics' award.

In New York City's Greene Space, the Tokyo players will apply their "Paganini Quartet" of matched Stradivarius instruments to works by Haydn, Bartók and Beethoven. Don't miss the night's final piece: Beethoven's immense and involving Grosse Fugue.

Program
  • Haydn: String Quartet in F, Op. 77, No. 2
  • Bartok: String Quartet No. 4 - Allegretto pizzicato
  • Beethoven: Grosse Fuge (with end of Cavatina, Op. 130)
[+] read more[-] less

More From Classical

Tiny Desk Concert with Jason Vieaux and Yolanda Kondonassis. Meredith Rizzo/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Meredith Rizzo/NPR

Tiny Desk

Jason Vieaux And Yolanda Kondonassis

Watch the Grammy-winning guitarist and acclaimed harpist play music influenced by Africa and Asia.

Viola da gamba master Jordi Savall leads his ensemble Le Concert des Nations in a performance at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall on Apr. 16, 2015. AJ Wilhelm for NPR hide caption

itoggle caption AJ Wilhelm for NPR

Carnegie Hall Live

Jordi Savall And Le Concert Des Nations WQXR-FM

Hear the consummate master of early music lead an exhilarating program of French compositions.

Listen Loading… 2:21:40
  • Playlist
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/347126561/401021961" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">

Tiny Desk Concert with Anonymous 4 on March 4. Emily Jan/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Emily Jan/NPR

Tiny Desk

Anonymous 4 With Bruce Molsky

The a cappella quartet, with banjo and fiddle, offers popular songs from the Civil War era.

András Schiff takes late sonatas by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert to Carnegie Hall. AJ Wilhelm/for NPR hide caption

itoggle caption AJ Wilhelm/for NPR

Carnegie Hall Live

András Schiff Plays Mozart, Haydn, Schubert And Beethoven At Carnegie Hall WQXR-FM

On March 10, hear the eminent pianist in a solo recital of sublime masterworks.

Listen Loading… 2:03:37
  • Playlist
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/347112344/392189990" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">

Baritone Thomas Hampson brings a Civil War-themed program to Carnegie Hall Feb. 9, 2015. Kristine Hoebermann hide caption

itoggle caption Kristine Hoebermann

Carnegie Hall Live

Thomas Hampson Sings A World Premiere WQXR-FM

Hear the beloved American baritone sing a new work by Jennifer Higdon in this recital.

Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a concert of powerhouse orchestral works at Carnegie Hall. AJ Wilhelm for NPR Music hide caption

itoggle caption AJ Wilhelm for NPR Music

Carnegie Hall Live

The Chicago Symphony Plays A Colorful Concert WQXR-FM

Hear the CSO and its charismatic conductor Riccardo Muti in a program of Scriabin and Debussy.

Listen Loading… 2:00
  • Playlist
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/347102210/382739058" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">
Back To Top