Regarded as one of the supreme chamber ensembles of the world, the Tokyo String Quartet — Martin Beaver and Kikuei Ikeda (violins), Kazuhide Isomura (viola) and Clive Greensmith (cello) — collaborated with a remarkable array of artists and composers during its 43-year career, established a distinguished teaching record, and built a comprehensive catalogue of critically acclaimed recordings. Performing over a hundred concerts worldwide each season, the quartet gained a devoted international following across the globe.
Officially formed in 1969 at the Juilliard School of Music, the Tokyo Quartet traced its origins to the Toho School of Music in Tokyo, where the founding members were profoundly influenced by Professor Hideo Saito. Soon after its formation, the ensemble won First Prize at the Coleman Competition, the Munich Competition and the Young Concert Artists International Auditions. An exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon firmly established it as one of the world’s leading quartets.
The Tokyo String Quartet made more than 40 recordings, released on the harmonia mundi, BMG/RCA Victor Red Seal, Angel-EMI, CBS Masterworks, Deutsche Grammophon and Vox Cum Laude labels, including the complete quartets ofBeethoven , Schubert and Bartók. The ensemble’s recordings of Brahms, Debussy <>, Dvorák, Haydn, Mozart, Ravel and Schubert have earned such honors as the Grand Prix du Disque Montreux, “Best Chamber Music Recording of the Year” awards from both Stereo Review and Gramophone magazines and seven Grammy® nominations.
The members of the Tokyo Quartet served on the faculty of the Yale School of Music as quartet-in-residence from 1976 to 2013. Deeply committed to coaching young string quartets, they conducted master classes in North America, Europe and the Far East.
For the Tokyo’s farewell season, preparations were made in every hall to properly celebrate what has been, for audiences in the U.S. and around the world, an extended love affair with the quartet. North American tours included cities such as Cincinnati, Cleveland, Miami, Portland, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Seattle, alongside Canadian venues in Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. For its final season in Europe, the Tokyo Quartet appeared in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, London, Paris, Rome, Vienna and Zurich, as well as Moscow and Warsaw. This was followed by an extensive tour of Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
For the last decade, the ensemble recorded exclusively for harmonia mundi, producing landmark releases such as Schubert’s String Quintet in C Major with cellist David Watkin (named “Outstanding” by the International Record Review); Brahms’ belovedPiano Quintet and Clarinet Quintet performed with Jon Nakamatsu and Jon Manasse, and in May 2013 an album devoted toCzech composers Dvorák and Smetana.
Since 1995 the ensemble performed on the “Paganini Quartet”, a group of renowned Stradivarius instruments named for legendary virtuosoNiccolò Paganini <>, who acquired and played them during the 19th century. The instruments, recently returned on the dissolution of the quartet, had been on loan to the ensemble from the Nippon Music Foundation.
After 43 seasons, the Tokyo String Quartet announced that 2012-2013 would be its last. The farewell concert took place in Norfolk, Connecticut, on July 6th, 2013.
Header image: © Marco Borggreve 2011 for harmonia mundi