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Aizuri String Quartet

March 20, 2022 at 4:30 pm

What’s Past Is Prologue

On January 24, 2022, Chamber Music America (CMA), the national network for ensemble music professionals, announced  that the Aizuri Quartet has been selected to receive the Cleveland Quartet Award for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 seasons. 

Established in 1995, the biennial award honors and promotes a rising string quartet whose artistry demonstrates that it is in the process of establishing a major career. Previous recipients include the Brentano, Borromeo, Miami, Pacifica, Miró, Jupiter, Parker, Jasper, Ariel, Dover, Rolston, and Verona Quartets.

The Aizuri Quartet—Emma Frucht and Miho Saegusa, violins; Ayana Kozasa, viola; and Karen Ouzounian, cello—has established a unique position within today’s musical landscape, infusing their music-making with infectious energy, joy, and warmth, cultivating curiosity in listeners, and inviting audiences into the concert experience through their innovative programming, and the depth and fire of their performances. 

Praised by The Washington Post for “astounding” and “captivating” performances that draw from its notable “meld of intellect, technique and emotions,” The Aizuri Quartet was awarded the Grand Prize at the 2018 M-Prize Chamber Arts Competition, along with top prizes at the 2017 Osaka International Chamber Music Competition in Japan and the 2015 Wigmore Hall International String Quartet Competition in London. 

Program

What’s Past Is Prologue

VON BINGEN
Columba aspexit, arr. Alex Fortes

STROZZI
L’usignuolo, arr. Alex Fortes

YOUNG
Memento mori – Phase I

STROZZI
L’amante modesto, arr. Alex Fortes

SMITH
Carrot Revolution

GIDDENS
At the Purchaser’s Option

ALBERGA
String Quartet No. 1

The Quartet’s debut album, Blueprinting, featuring new works written for the Aizuri Quartet by five American composers, was released by New Amsterdam Records to critical acclaim (“In a word, stunning” – I Care If You Listen), nominated for a 2019 GRAMMY Award, and named one of NPR Music’s Best Classical Albums of 2018.  

The Aizuris view the string quartet as a living art and springboard for community, collaboration, curiosity and experimentation. At the core of their music-making is a virtuosic ability to illuminate a vast range of musical styles through their eclectic, engaging and thought-provoking programs. The Quartet has drawn praise both for bringing “a technical bravado and emotional power” to bold new commissions, and for its “flawless” (San Diego Union-Tribune) performances of the great works of the past. Exemplifying this intrepid spirit, the Aizuri Quartet curated and performed five adventurous programs as the 2017-2018 MetLiveArts String Quartet-in-Residence at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. For this series, they collaborated with spoken word artist Denice Frohman and shakuhachi player Kojiro Umezaki; commissioned new works by Kinan Azmeh, Michi Wiancko, and Wang Lu; and commissioned new arrangements of vocal music by Hildegard von Bingen and Carlo Gesualdo, which they paired with the music of Conlon Nancarrow, Haydn, and Beethoven in a program focused on music created in periods of isolation. 

The 21-22 concert season features the Aizuri Quartet’s Expanse, What’s Past is Prologue, and Song Emerging recital programs. Notable highlights include the Quartet’s major concerto debut with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra in performances of John Adams’s “Absolute Jest,” its debut at the 92Y, a collaborative program with Anthony McGill and Demarre McGill at the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, and the premieres of new string quartets by Lembit Beecher and Paul Wiancko presented by the Phillips Collection in Washington D.C.  

The Aizuris believe in an integrative approach to music-making, in which their teaching, performing, writing, arranging, curation and role in the community are all connected. In Fall 2020 they launched AizuriKids, a free, online series of educational videos for children that uses the string quartet as a catalyst for creative learning and features themes such as astronomy, American history and cooking. These vibrant, whimsical and interactive videos are lovingly produced by the Aizuris and are paired with activity sheets to inspire further exploration.

Formed in 2012 and combining four distinctive musical personalities into a powerful collective, the Aizuri Quartet draws its name from “aizuri-e,” a style of predominantly blue Japanese woodblock printing that is noted for its vibrancy and incredible detail.

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