The Alexander String Quartet: Seven Last Words of Christ
Friday, April 2 @ 6:00 pm
The celebrated ensemble will perform Joseph Haydn’s Seven Last Words of Christ, the composer’s reflection on Good Friday, interspersed with reflections by Anna Deavere Smith; Dr. Sandra Montes, Dean of Chapel at Union Theological Seminary; Uriah Kim, President, Graduate Theological Union; and the Very Rev. Dr. Alan Jones, Dean Emeritus of Grace Cathedral.
The Seven Last Words of Christ by Joseph Haydn was commissioned in 1786 for the Good Friday service at Oratorio de la Santa Cueva (Holy Cave Oratory) in Cádiz, Spain. The seven main meditative sections—labelled “sonatas” and all slow—are framed by a slow Introduction and a fast “Earthquake” conclusion, for a total of nine movements. At the request of his publisher, the composer in 1787 produced a version for string quartet: Haydn’s Opus 51. This is the form in which the music is most often heard today.
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The Alexander String Quartet has performed in the major music capitals of five continents, securing its standing among the world’s premier ensembles, and a major artistic presence in its home base of San Francisco, serving since 1989 as Ensemble in Residence of San Francisco Performances and Directors of The Morrison Chamber Music Center Instructional Program at San Francisco State University. Widely admired for its interpretations of Beethoven, Mozart, and Shostakovich, the quartet’s recordings have won international critical acclaim. They have established themselves as important advocates of new music commissioning dozens of new works from composers including Jake Heggie, Cindy Cox, Augusta Read Thomas, Robert Greenberg, Cesar Cano, Tarik O’Regan, Paul Siskind, and Pulitzer Prize-winner Wayne Peterson. Samuel Carl Adams’ new “Quintet with Pillars” was premiered and has been widely performed across the U.S. by the Alexander with pianist Joyce Yang, and will be introduced to European audiences in the 2021-2022 season.
ASQ formed in New York City in 1981, capturing international attention in 1985 as the first American quartet to win the London (now Wigmore) International String Quartet Competition. The quartet has received honorary degrees from Allegheny College and Saint Lawrence University, and Presidential medals from Baruch College (CUNY). The Alexander plays on a matched set of instruments made in San Francisco by Francis Kuttner, known as the Ellen M. Egger quartet.
David Samuel viola
Sandy Wilson cello
“They were, to put it simply, terrific of tone, virtuosity and balance. The general quality level, as well as all the particulars of communicative virtuosity, place the Alexander Quartet right up there with the best on today’s international scene.” – San Francisco Chronicle
“The Alexander String Quartet is one of those estimable groups who treat both composers and audiences with uncommon respect. What commanded attention was the Alexander’s complete absorption in the piece at hand. You never got the feeling that these were mere score readings, but part of the organization’s living repertoire. Then, too, the Alexanders command an extraordinarily chameleonic sound. It can be buttery smooth and even viscous, in the old world European manner, or, it can turn spiky and urgent in the American style when a score demands that kind of attack.” – San Francisco Examiner