Following its acclaimed three-season Beethoven cycle of string quartets and piano sonatas, the Tokyo String Quartet now begins an exploration of the great modern innovator of the string quartet, Belá Bartók, with a two-season cycle of his quartets. The cycle starts this season on November 5 and continues March 17 and April 28. Purchase a series subscription here. Here the Quartet members discuss their cycle programming and performing at 92Y as its string quartet-in-residence.
You are performing this cycle following your tremendously successful Beethoven cycle. Do you see a relationship between Beethoven and Bartók?
Clive Greensmith, cello: Theirs were certainly two of the most influential, profoundly individual voices to have left their mark on the string quartet genre. Both composers remained committed to the art form throughout their creative lives, and their fascination for the medium seemed to help forge their own distinctly personal styles. Both were consummate craftsmen and musical pioneers, and they found in the string quartet an ideal expressive outlet for some of their most personal works.
In Bartók, there is often an overwhelming sense of strangeness. The uncompromising demands he places on both player and listener seem to create a tremendous inner tension. Even today, his “sound world”—eccentric, richly colored and bursting with creative force—demonstrates that this music has lost none of its passion or power. We would certainly have no trouble ascribing the exact same sentiments to the quartets of Beethoven!