Emma Frucht, violin
Miho Saegusa, violin
Brian Hong, viola
Caleb van der Swaagh, cello
Praised by the Washington Post for “astounding” and “captivating” performances that draw from its notable “meld of intellect, technique and emotions,” the Aizuri Quartet was named the recipient of the 2022 Cleveland Quartet Award by Chamber Music America, with other honors including the Grand Prize at the 2018 M-Prize Chamber Arts Competition and top prizes at the 2017 Osaka International Chamber Music Competition in Japan and the 2015 Wigmore Hall International String Quartet Competition in London.
The Quartet’s sophomore album, Earthdrawn Skies, was released in 2023. Featuring music of Hildegard of Bingen, Komitas Vartapet, Eleanor Alberga, and Jean Sibelius, Earthdrawn Skies was praised by NPR Music as an album that “convincingly connects the dots in wildly diverse music stretching over eight centuries…arousing solemn contemplation, cosmic curiosity, folksy delight and introspective scrutiny.” Aizuri’s debut album, Blueprinting, featuring works written for the Quartet by five American composers, was released by New Amsterdam Records to critical acclaim (“In a word, stunning” —I Care If You Listen), nominated for a 2019 GRAMMY Award, and named one of NPR Music’s Best Classical Albums of 2018.
Aizuri Quartet have previously performed in an eclectic variety of settings. In addition to the world’s great chamber music series, Aizuri opened five nights of performances with legendary Indie Rock band Wilco with quartets by Gabriella Smith, Paul Wiancko, Rhiannon Giddens, and George Meyer at New York’s United Palace Theatre. Aizuri appeared with Wilco on CBS’s The Tonight Show with Steven Colbert. With Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Ken David Masur, Aizuri Quartet performed John Adams’s string quartet concerto Absolute Jest in 2022. During the summer of 2023, they appeared in Kronos Quartet’s Kronos Festival at SFJAZZ, where they played works commissioned by Kronos’s groundbreaking 50 For the Future initiative.
The Aizuri views the string quartet as a living art and springboard for community, collaboration, curiosity, and experimentation. At the core of its music-making is a virtuosic ability to illuminate a vast range of musical styles through the Aizuri’s eclectic, engaging, and thought-provoking programs. The Quartet has drawn praise both for bringing “a technical bravado and emotional power” to bold new commissions, and for its “flawless” (San Diego Union-Tribune) performances of the great works of the past. Exemplifying this intrepid spirit, the Aizuri Quartet curated and performed five adventurous programs as the 2017-2018 MetLiveArts String Quartet-in-Residence at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, leading The New York Times to applaud Aizuri Quartet as “genuinely exciting,” “imaginative” and “a quartet of expert collaborators.” For this series, the Quartet collaborated with spoken word artist Denice Frohman and shakuhachi player Kojiro Umezaki and initiated several new commissions: new works by Kinan Azmeh, Michi Wiancko and Wang Lu, as well as new arrangements of vocal music by Hildegard von Bingen and Carlo Gesualdo paired with the music of Conlon Nancarrow, Haydn and Beethoven in a program focused on music created in periods of isolation.
The Aizuri believes in an integrative approach to music-making, in which teaching, performing, writing, arranging, curation, and the Quartet’s role in the community are all connected. In 2020, the Quartet launched AizuriKids, a free online series of educational videos for children that uses the string quartet as a catalyst for creative learning, featuring themes such as astronomy, American history, and cooking. These vibrant, whimsical, and interactive videos are lovingly produced by the Quartet and paired with activity sheets to inspire further exploration.
The Aizuri Quartet is passionate about nurturing the next generation of artists, and is deeply grateful to have held several residencies that were instrumental in its development: the String Quartet-in-Residence at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia (2014-2016), the Ernst Stiefel String Quartet-in-Residence at the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts (2015-2016), and the resident ensemble of the 2014 Ravinia Festival’s Steans Music Institute. In early 2022, the Aizuri Quartet was named fellows to the Artist Propulsion Lab, a project of WQXR, New York City’s classical radio station.
After signing with the prestigious artist-development management agency Concert Artists Guild, the Quartet joined the roster of Pink Noise Agency. Formed in 2012 and combining four distinctive musical personalities into a powerful collective, the Aizuri Quartet draws its name from “aizuri-e,” a style of predominantly blue Japanese woodblock printing that is noted for its vibrancy and incredible detail.
Oct. 5 2023, 7:30 p.m.
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral
310 West 17th St., Little Rock
General admission $25; FREE student passes.
Clara Schumann: Ich stand in dunkeln Träumen (arr. Karen Ouzounian)
Béla Bartók: String Quartet No. 4, Sz 91
Tanya Tagaq: Sivunittinni (arr. Jacob Garchik)
Franz Joseph Haydn: String Quartet Op. 76 No. 4 in B-flat major, Sunrise
Aizuri Quartet plays Schumann: String Quartet No. 1 in A Minor, Op. 41, No. 1, I.