Cassatt String Quartet
Muneko Otani, violin
Jennifer Leshnower, violin
Ah Ling Neu, viola
Elizabeth Anderson, cello
Acclaimed as one of America’s outstanding ensembles, the Manhattan based Cassatt String Quartet has performed throughout North America, Europe, and the Far East, with appearances at New York’s Alice Tully Hall and Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, the Tanglewood Music Theater, the Kennedy Center and Library of Congress in Washington, DC, the Theatre des Champs-Élysées in Paris and Maeda Hall in Tokyo. The Quartet has been presented on major radio stations such as National Public Radio’s Performance Today, Boston’s WGBH, New York’s WQXR and WNYC, and on Canada’s CBC Radio and Radio France.
Formed in 1985 with the encouragement of the Juilliard Quartet, the Cassatt initiated and served as the inaugural participants in Juilliard’s Young Artists Quartet Program. Their numerous awards include a Tanglewood Chamber Music Fellowship, the Wardwell Chamber Music Fellowship at Yale (where they served as teaching assistants to the Tokyo Quartet), First Prizes at the Fischoff and Coleman Chamber Music Competitions, two top prizes at the Banff International String Quartet Competition, two CMA/ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming, a recording grant from the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, and commissioning grants from Meet the Composer and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2004, they were selected for the centennial celebration of the Coleman Chamber Music Association in Pasadena, California.
The Cassatt celebrated its twentieth anniversary in 2006 with a series of world-premieres, a performance at the Library of Congress on the Library’s Stradivarius Collection and gave concerts for the American Academy in Rome, Cornell and Syracuse Universities and were guest clinicians at the the Texas Music Educators Association. They also gave mini-residencies at the Centro National de las Artes in Mexico City, Vassar College and the University of Texas at Austin.
As Symphony Space resident “All-Stars”, this season the Cassatt joins forces with Marc Johnson, of the former Vermeer Quartet to premiere a Chamber Music America commission of Daniel S. Godfrey’s Cello Quintet with Schubert’s Quintet. They offer “Music from a Forgotten World” to include their recent commission “Playing For Our Lives” by Gerald Cohen with guest Ela Weissberger, a Terezin survivor. They perform Dvorak’s beloved Piano Quintet for Boston’s WBGH Drive Time Live with pianist, Judith Stillman and at Rhode Island College and return to Connecticut’s Treetops Chamber Music Society in Weber’s Clarinet Quintet with Oskar Espina-Ruiz. The Cassatt will give a mini-residency at Texas A & M University and return to their seventh annual Texas high school educational residency, Cassatt In The Basin! which includes intensive workshops, coachings and rehearsals of a commissioned work by Peter Lieuwen for Triple Quartet, in a side-by-side performance of students with the Cassatt. They rejoin the Allegro Chorale to present the premiere of Lowell Hohstadt’s “Changing Seasons” and Elisenda Fabregas’ “The Flaming Rock”.
This Spring the Quartet will work with student composers and give masterclasses at the University of North Carolina at Greenville and at the North Carolina School for the Arts. They make their debut at New York City’s River to River Celebration with the multi-media premiere of Mari Kimura’s “One”. The Cassatt’s perform their commissioned work, Cadmium Yellow at Columbia University’s Miller Theater for Laura Kaminsky’s CD release and they will record quartets by Libby Larsen and Anna Weesner.
Additional highlights include a return to the Big Sky Music Festival (MT) with cellist, Hamilton Cheifetz and to Music Mountain (CT) and Bargemusic (NY) with pianist, Ursula Oppens. They give concerts at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the University of Central Arkansas to include the premiere of Bruce Adolphe’s quartet “Mary Cassatt: Scenes From Her Life” inspired by the Museum’s renowned art collection. An unique collaboration with the Kyoshinan Ensemble brings the Cassatt to the Tenri Cultural Center in NYC to give James Nyoraku Schlefer’s premiere for koto, shakuhachi, shamisen and quartet and the two ensembles will be in residence at the University of Hawaii. Finally they make their debut at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Studies.
Equally adept at classical masterpieces and contemporary music, the Cassatt has collaborated with a remarkable array of artists/composers including pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin, soprano Susan Narucki, flutist Ransom Wilson, jazz pianist Fred Hersch, didgeriedoo player Simon 7, the Trisha Brown Dance Company, distinguished members of the Cleveland and Vermeer Quartets, and composers Louis Andriessen and John Harbison.
With a deep commitment to nurturing young musicians, the Cassatt, in residencies at Princeton, Yale, Syracuse University, the University at Buffalo and the University of Pennsylvania, has devoted itself to coaching, conducting sectionals and reading student composers’ works, while offering lively musical presentations in music theory, history and composition. Selected by Chamber Music America, they recently served as guest artists for their New Music Institute; a series to help presenters market new music to their audiences. Summer often finds them at Bargemusic , Music Mountain and in residence at the Hot Springs Music Festival and the innovative Seal Bay Festival of Contemporary American Chamber Music. This past June 2012, quartet members celebrated the summer solstice with noted Astrovisualist, Dr. Carter Emmart at New York’s Hayden Planetarium in a spellbinding performance that was described by New York Times music critic James Oestreich as “gamely and artistic.”
Named three times by The New Yorker magazine’s Best Of…CD Selection, the Cassatt’s discography includes eclectic new quartets by Pulitizer Prize-winner Steven Stucky and Tina Davidson (Albany Records), by Daniel S. Godfrey (Koch International Classics) and by Grawemeyer and Rome Prize-winner Sebastian Currier (New World) as critiqued in The New York Times (Quartetset) was written for the Cassatt… which plays it strongly here.”
The Cassatt has recorded for the Koch, Naxos, New World, Point, CRI, Tzadik and Albany labels and is named for the celebrated American impressionist painter Mary Cassatt.