St. Lawrence String Quartet

January 26, 2020, 4 PM

Music Room

At the forefront of North American chamber music for three decades, the St. Lawrence String Quartet makes their long-overdue debut at the Phillips. Celebrating their 30th anniversary, the Quartet presents a program that perfectly captures their ensemble philosophy: smart yet wholly spontaneous readings of classical repertoire balanced with a devotion to new music. The Quartet is especially dedicated to the music of Joseph Haydn, and presents two String Quartets from Haydn’s groundbreaking set of Six String Quartets, Op. 20, written when the composer was at the height of his powers and fame. In between these two classical gems are quartet works by two composers associated with the St. Lawrence: Osvaldo Golijov’s commemorative “Yiddishbbuk,” written for the Quartet in 1992, and John Adams’s Second String Quartet, composed in 2014 for the group.


JOSEPH HAYDN (1732-1809)
String Quartet in D Major Op. 20, No. 4, Hob.III:34              

JOHN ADAMS (b. 1947)
Second Quartet
(composed in 2014 for SLSQ)


“Yiddishbbuk” for String Quartet
(composed in 1992 for SLSQ)

JOSEPH HAYDN (1732-1809)
String Quartet in C Major Op. 20, No. 2, Hob.III:32

“Modern,” “dramatic,” “superb,” “wickedly attentive,” “with a hint of rock ‘n roll energy” are just a few ways critics describe the musical phenomenon that is the St. Lawrence String Quartet (SLSQ). Founded in 1989, the SLSQ quickly earned international acclaim, established an ongoing residency at Spoleto Festival USA, released several prize-winning recordings for EMI, and earned two Grammy award nominations plus a host of other prizes before being appointed ensemble-in-residence at Stanford University in 1998. This year, the SLSQ mark their 30th anniversary season with musical engagements celebrating new compositions alongside cornerstones of the chamber music repertoire by Beethoven and Haydn.

Recent highlights include recitals at Carnegie Hall and Wigmore Hall, and solo performances with Michael Tilson Thomas and the SF Symphony, Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Philharmonic, and Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony in John Adams’s Absolute Jest for string quartet and orchestra, and the European premieres of Adams’s Second String Quartet. Fiercely committed to collaboration with living composers, the SLSQ’s fruitful partnership with Adams, Jonathan Berger, Osvaldo Golijov, and many others has yielded some of the finest additions to the quartet literature in recent years.

The Quartet is also especially dedicated to the music of Haydn, recording his groundbreaking set of six Op. 20 quartets in high-definition video for a free, universal release online in 2019. According to The New Yorker, “ other North American quartet plays the music of Haydn with more intelligence, expressivity, and force...”

At Stanford, the SLSQ is at the forefront of intellectual life on campus. The SLSQ directs the music department’s chamber music program, and frequently collaborates with other departments including the Schools of Law, Medicine, Business, and Education. The Quartet frequently performs at Stanford Live, hosts an annual chamber music seminar, and runs the Emerging String Quartet Program through which they mentor the next generation of young quartets. In the words of Alex Ross of The New Yorker: “The St. Lawrence are remarkable not simply for the quality of their music making, exalted as it is, but for the joy they take in the act of connection.”

Geoff Nuttall (violin) and Lesley Robertson (viola) met as students while studying music in their native Canada and in 1989 founded the St. Lawrence String Quartet. Christopher Costanza (cello) joined the ensemble in 2003 after performing for many years with the Chicago String Quartet. Owen Dalby (violin) is a founding member of Decoda, the Affiliate Ensemble of Carnegie Hall. He joined the SLSQ in 2015.