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5 QUESTIONS: Talking with the Tokyo String Quartet

Apr 28, 2013 | By Catherine Ugolini, Marketing & Outreach Manager
5 QUESTIONS: Talking with the Tokyo String Quartet,

After an incredible 44 years together, the Tokyo String Quartet has announced that the 2012-13 season will be its last.  This celebrated ensemble has had a long association with Princeton, which began in 1973 when Barbara Sand first presented them on the Princeton University Summer Chamber Concerts series.  In the years that followed, the members of the Tokyo String Quartet have been frequent visitors to Princeton, performing both in our halls and in our homes.

Princeton University Concerts presents the Quartet in a free concert – a gift to the community from PUC – on May 1, 2013 at 7:30PM.  Currently on their farewell tour, the Tokyo String Quartet’s 2nd violinist, Kikuei Ikeda, spoke to us from the road:

PUC:  In an interview with Chamber Music Magazine, Mr. Beaver said that disbanding feels "bittersweet, especially when we visit places where we really feel at home."  Is Princeton one of those places?  What about Princeton is so special to the Tokyo String Quartet?

TSQ:  Princeton of course has a special place in our hearts. Over the years we have performed there almost yearly and recorded many CDs there.

PUC:  Since 1994 the Nippon Music Foundation has loaned the TSQ the four exceptional Stradivari instruments referred to as the "Paganini Quartet."  Can you tell us a bit about this history of the "Paganini Quartet?" What has it been like to be able to play these extraordinary instruments?  Do you know what will happen to them now?

TSQ:  The “Paganini Quartet” is one of only six sets of quartet compiled with instruments made by Antonio Stradivari known to exist today. The instruments of this particular quartet were once owned by the legendary Italian virtuoso violinist and composer, Niccolo Paganini. The set consists of consists of the two violins one made in 1727 and the other in 1680 violin, a viola made in 1731 and cello made in 1736.

The Nippon Music Foundation acquired this quartet from the Corcoran Gallery of Arts in Washington, D.C. in 1994 and loans them as a set. We will return these great instruments to the Nippon Music Foundation after our last concert at Norfolk, CT on July 6. The foundation has not yet decided which lucky quartet will receive these extraordinary instruments in the future!

PUC:  After so many years playing together, which pieces of the string quartet repertoire do you most enjoy performing?  Are there any young quartets on the rise you think we should know about?

TSQ:  We are ever so lucky to have many great string quartets. It is very difficult to choose favorites. I personally admire many of the Haydn quartets particularly the late quartet and all of the Beethoven quartets.  We have been very busy these days, but after July I would love to go to hear a concert given by young quartet. Fortunately I am invited to be the jury of the Banff competition this summer and Borciani competition in Italy next year. I look forward to listening to many talented young quartets.

PUC:  What are your plans for life after the TSQ?

TSQ:  Martin and Clive will move to Los Angeles to teach at Colburn school of Music. Kazu and I will stay at Yale school of music. Kazu will also teach at Manhattan school of Music. I will also teach at NYU Steinhardt School.

PUC:  Can you share any specific memories of playing in Princeton?

TSQ:  We received a plaque from President Harold T. Shapiro celebrating our 20th anniversary and expressing gratitude for our performances of the Beethoven cycle. I still remember vividly how the Princeton audience gave us such a warm reception after the last concert of the Beethoven cycle.  We also recorded most of the recordings we did with RCA from 1984 to 1994 at Richardson Auditorium in Princeton. We knew the hall so well, so that our recording engineer remembered where to put microphone and where we should put our music stand and chairs.

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The Tokyo String Quartet will perform for the last time in Princeton on May 1, 2013 at 7:30PM at Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall. All of the tickets for this free event have been distributed.  There will be a wait line for any unused tickets at Richardson Auditorium beginning at 6:30PM  MORE INFORMATION>

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