St. Lawrence Quartet Premieres John Adams’ Second Quartet

By Brian Potter on January 22, 2015
St. Lawrence Quartet

Last week, the St. Lawrence Quartet delivered the world premiere of John Adams' eagerly awaited "Second Quartet" at Stanford University's Bing Concert Hall. Just one week later, the group brings this remarkable new work to the Kimmel Center's Perelman Theater in a PCMS program that also features a pair of Haydn quartets and a Philadelphia premiere by Stanford composer Jonathan Berger.

This review from the San Jose Mercury News (January 19) sheds a refreshing light on the quartet and its enticing, multi-faceted program. Critic Richard Scheinin begins with unequivocal praise, stating that "in its 25th season, overall, and in its 17th as ensemble-in-residence at Stanford -- (the St. Lawrence) is at the top of its game. To be performing at this level of technical clarity and expressive clout after 25 years, united in its exploration of a wide repertory -- that's an accomplishment."

John Adams

John Adams

In discussing the program, Scheinin describes the Adams–the third work that the Berkeley-based composer has written for the St. Lawrence–as "devilishly dynamic." The piece, he adds, "grooves as if it were composed by someone who came of age in the 1960s -- someone like Adams, who can hold forth on John Coltrane, Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles." One particular phrase features "such insistent fiddling that the group sounded something like a folk-music string band gone bananas."

But this program is about much more than "just" the Adams. Scheinin also lauds the Quartet's approach to Haydn, asking "How often do you hear any group play Haydn (in this case the String Quartet in F minor, Op. 20, No. 5) with this much passion and wisdom, or with such a beautiful sound? Picking just one example, the quiet propulsion of Haydn's closing fugue was eye-opening: all that delicacy and fire."

The St. Lawrence Quartet's visits from the West Coast to Philadelphia have been increasingly anticipated in recent seasons, so we encourage you to purchase your tickets today at

Read the full review of the Stanford concert at the San Jose Mercury News.