Although Sundays commonly consist of a standard procedure – wake up, roll over, pull blankets over head, stay in pajamas and wander aimlessly moping about the week ahead-the Tokyo String Quartet firmly seized the day on Sunday, Jan. 27 at Kilbourn Hall in Eastman Theatre.

First violinist Martin Beaver, second violinist Kikuei Ikeda, violist Kazuhide Isomura and cellist Clive Greensmith provided an incredibly breathtaking performance to an eclectic audience. The sold-out performance left some students’ heads hanging, but I was able to snag a spot in the packed auditorium, notebook in my lap, pen behind my ear.

The Tokyo String Quartet was founded over 30 years ago and is regarded as one of the supreme chamber ensembles in the entire world. They have collaborated with multiple artists and composers, established a renowned catalogue of recordings and have coached young string quartets as they devote much of their summers to teaching and performing master classes in North America, Europe and the Far East. An exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon cemented the Tokyo String Quartet’s reputation as one of the world’s leading quartets, and it has since released more than 40 landmark recordings.

Beaver has appeared as a soloist with the San Francisco Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, Toronto Symphony, National Orchestra of Belgium and the Portuguese Radio Orchestra and is a faculty member at the Steinhardt School of New York University.

Ikeda was born in Yokosuka, Japan and performed as a soloist with the Yomiuri Symphony and the Tokyo Metropolitan and Tokyo Symphony orchestras. He also toured Europe as concertmaster of the Tokyo String Orchestra.

Ikeda came to the United States in 1971 and studied with members of the Julliard School. He has given recitals in Italy, New York and Tokyo and was a prizewinner in the Mainichi Nippon Hosoh Kyokai and Haken competitions in Japan, the Washington International Competition for Strings in Washington D.C., and the Vienna da Motta in Portugal.

Isomura became an assistant concert master of the Nashville Symphony upon his arrival to the U.S. and eventually ended up at the Julliard School. He is a founding member of the Tokyo String Quartet and records for MusicMasters/Musical Heritage Society.

Greensmith graduated from the Royal Northern College of Music and the Musikochschule in Cologne and has held the position of principal cellist of London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. He has appeared as a soloist with the London Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic, English Chamber Orchestra, Mostly Mozart Orchestra, Seoul Philharmonic and the RAI Orchestra of Rome. He is also currently a faculty member at New York University.

The quartet performed three major pieces entitled “Quartet in G Major, Op. 18,” “No. 2, Compliments,” “Grosse Fuge in Bb Major, Op. 133” and “Quartet in C Major, Op. 59 No. 3, Hero” – all originally compliments of Beethoven.

The first piece consisted of the most soothing perfection of crescendos and decrescendos, leading into a refreshing legato as all four members played different parts and came together sporadically in unison. The end of this piece resulted in a climax of emotion that provoked immediate chills down my spine and left the audience roaring with applause.

Martin Beaver commented on the sheet music of the second piece by saying, “This music is kind of like the map of I-90.”

“Grosse Fuge in Bb Major, Op. 133” began with extreme staccato and gradually moved toward a distressing, somber attitude. The piece is recognized for its extreme technical demands as well as its unrelentingly introspective nature. Each member remained focused and devoted on his own part throughout the piece, eventually combining in the formation of one perfect musical story.

Lastly, the “Quartet in C Major” was played with immaculate precision as it included the Introduzione: Andante con moto; Allegro vivace, Andante con moto quasi Allegretto, Menuetto: Grazioso and Allegro molto. The ending of this piece resonated with such intense beauty that it left hands clapping for over five minutes and a wave of “Bravos” overlapped each other as the four men went off stage and came back on at least three times to bow.

I sat in the last row of Kilbourn Hall, in the very last seat in the corner, having just witnessed something so moving that it brought tears to my eyes.

It was truly mesmerizing to see women with canes and men with spectacles the size of Texas joined with Eastman students for a common purpose: the appreciation of something indescribable. Words cannot do justice to the world renowned Tokyo String Quartet.

Miller is a member of the class of 2011.



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