Borromeo String Quartet
Since their explosive debut in 1989, the critically acclaimed Borromeo String Quartet have become one of the most sought after strings quartets in the world, performing over 100 concerts of classical and contemporary music across three continents every season. Audiences and critics alike champion their ability to bring back the contemporary fire to often heard works from the classic repertoire while making even the most challenging new music approachable. As one of today’s most adventurous quartets, they continue to push musical, intellectual, and technical boundaries to a level achieved by only a very few.
“To hear and see them perform has always felt to me like taking a private tour through a composer’s mind,” says Cathy Fuller, host of the Classics in the Morning show on WGBH, Boston’s famed classical NPR station. “They probe and analyze from every angle until they discover how to best unveil the psychological, physical, and spiritual states that a great piece of music evokes. They’re champions of new music…but they also thrive on making the old classics sound vital and fresh.”
The Borromeo have been redefining the classical music landscape through innovative uses of Macbook Pro laptops, video projection, and iPads in performance. They use on-stage projections of hand drawn original manuscripts by composers like Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, Mozart, and Schubert to vividly illustrate the creative process hard at work, a practice which has excited audiences of all ages. In schools, their use of technology is proving to make classical music now very relevant to students who have grown up in the digital age. The Borromeo makes their own videos and live concert recordings while on tour using Final Cut Pro and After Effects, and in 2003 started an on-demand recording project, the Living Archive, that made it possible for listeners to experience many of the quartet’s concerts around the world.
“The digital tide washing over society is lapping at the shores of classical music. The Borromeo players have embraced it in their daily musical lives like no other major chamber music group,” says New York Times reporter Dan Wakin in his feature story on the quartet, Bytes and Beethoven.
The Borromeo collaborates extensively with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and the Library of Congress, and can be heard throughout the year on National Public Radio and Public Radio International. It was the ensemble-in-residence for NPR’s Performance Today in 1998 and 1999, and its longstanding residency at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum has been called “one of the defining experiences of civilization in Boston” by the Boston Globe]. The group performs an ongoing series at the Tenri Cultural Institute in New York City as well.
Quartet has collaborated with artists that include Angélique Kidjo and Branford Marsalis; violinist Midori; pianists Christoph Eschenbach, Leon Fleisher, Gary Graffman, Menahem Pressler, and Peter Serkin; sopranos Dawn Upshaw and Audra McDonald; clarinetists Richard Stoltzman and David Shifrin; and cellist Bernard Greenhouse, as well as members of the Brentano, Guarneri, Juilliard, and Cleveland string quartets.
As quartet-in-residence at the prestigious New England Conservatory of Music for twenty years, the Borromeo have opened the “doors of perception” to a generation of young musicians who are now themselves being heard by audiences around the world. Their informal public masterclass series held at NEC, called “Early Evenings with the Borromeo,” regularly attracts standing-room-only crowds. The ensemble returns to the Taos School of Music in New Mexico this summer for its eighth season of mentoring outstanding young musicians.
The Borromeo String Quartet has been heard in the most illustrious concert halls, including Tokyo’s Casals Hall, Daiichi Seimei Hall, the Concertgebouw, Wigmore Hall, and the Opéra national de Paris-Bastille, as well as the Library of Congress, Alice Tully Hall, Jordan Hall, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Kennedy Center. It has been invited to perform at music festivals around the world, including Spoleto, Orlando in the Netherlands, Music Isle in Korea, and throughout North America at the Rockport, Maverick, Marlboro, La Jolla, Music@Menlo, Ravinia, Vancouver, and Tanglewood music festivals. First violinist Nicholas Kitchen was artistic director of the Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival for six seasons.
In 2007, the Borromeo String Quartet received the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant, and since 2006, the Aaron Copland House has honored the quartet’s commitment to contemporary music with its Borromeo String Quartet Award, which introduces the work of important young composers to audiences internationally. The Borromeo has enjoyed collaborations with such composers as Gunther Schuller, Lera Auerbach, Steve Mackey, Osvaldo Golijov, Derek Bermel, John Cage, György Ligeti, John Harbison, Leon Kirchner, Thomas Adès, Robert Maggio, James Matheson, and Mohammed Fairouz.
The quartet recently released a CD of music by Béla Bartók, Gunther Schuller, and Mohammed Fairouz, which features both live and studio versions of Schuller’s String Quartet no. 4. Gramophone Magazine hailed the “great clarity and beauty” and “ravishing fury” of the BSQ’s studio recording of masterworks by Beethoven, and their CD featuring works of Maurice Ravel was honored with the Chamber Music America/WQXR Award for Recording Excellence in 2001.
The Borromeos were commissioned by the Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society in 2005 to conduct a five-month long series of outreach concerts throughout the city focused on the music of Béla Bartók, including Bartók Night, a one act play for solo actor and string quartet by playwright Lynne Conner. In addition, the ensemble serves as an advisor to Community MusicWorks of Providence, Rhode Island, an organization dedicated to enriching the lives of inner city youths and families through classical music.The Borromeo Quartet have received many prestigious awards throughout their illustrious 22 year career, including Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Career Grant, as well as their Martin E. Segal Award, Chamber Music America’s Cleveland Quartet Award, the Young Concert Artists International Auditions, and top prize at the International String Quartet Competition in Evian, France.
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