Tokyo Quartet Takes Its Final Bow

By Erik Petersons on April 25, 2013

Looking back, the signs are all there.  Even if the Tokyo String Quartet hadn’t announced its forthcoming breakup, the group just finished recording the late Beethoven quartets–for the second time.  Then came a Schubert Quintet in C major recording–another piece that quartets want to do one last time.  Concerts included the last quartets of Schubert and Bartók.  On the cover of the quartet’s latest recording, a DvoÅ™ák/Smetana program, the players are standing with their coats on, getting ready to leave.  And they are.

The Tokyo Quartet is winding down its final tour before going their separate ways.  But before making a stop in Philadelphia one last time to perform at the Independence Seaport Museum, the quartet was interviewed by David Patrick Stearns for the Chamber Music America magazine (opening quote above).  In speaking about their retirement, Martin Beaver (first violinist since 2002) said, “A good adjective would be bittersweet, especially when we visit places where we really felt at home…we’re very close to the people involved.”

Sure enough, after 38 PCMS performances since 1989, the Tokyo has appeared on our stages more than any other ensemble.  The relationship they have built with our audiences over the years was best described by Clive Greensmith (cellist since 1999) in another interview.

We would not hesitate to claim [Philadelphia] as being one our favorite concert series, anywhere in the world. We always feel a strong rapport with the PCMS public, no matter how esoteric or demanding the repertoire might be, and this series seems to cultivate particularly strong artistic relationships with a wonderful cast of guest artists. Some of our happiest musical memories are all thanks to PCMS and there's always an energy that emanates from the PCMS public–a distinctive blend of attentiveness, respect and passionate enthusiasm for the music. We will certainly miss you all!

The Tokyo Quartet is making its last appearance in Philadelphia on Sunday, May 5th at 3pm.  With a program of works by Beethoven and Mendelssohn in the first half, the quartet finishes with Bartók’s Quartet No. 6, written to express the feelings of hesitation and uncertainty the composer felt in leaving his home in Hungary–an apt conclusion for the Tokyo’s final PCMS performance and their feelings about parting from the musicians they have made music with for so long.

Their presence on the PCMS stage will certainly be missed.