Better school? A late quartet quits Princeton for Yale

Better school? A late quartet quits Princeton for Yale


norman lebrecht

November 03, 2013

The Brentano Quartet, who played the soundtrack on Yaron Zilberman’s film A Late Quartet, have given up their residency at Princeton for a better deal at Yale. You can guess what Albert Einstein would have said about that.

Press release below.

a late quartet


NEW HAVEN | The internationally acclaimed Brentano String Quartet has been appointed the new quartet-in-residence at the Yale School of Music (YSM). The members of the quartet — Mark Steinberg and Serena Canin, violin; Misha Amory ’89, viola; and Nina Lee, cello — will also serve as artists-in-residence.

Their faculty appointment will begin in fall 2014. They succeed the Tokyo String Quartet, which retired in 2013 after 37 years at YSM.

“The Brentano Quartet comes to YSM and the Yale Summer School of Music/Norfolk Chamber Music Festival with international renown for their exquisite artistry and their musical insights as gifted teachers,” said Robert Blocker, Dean of the Yale School of Music. “They join our distinguished faculty in our commitment to chamber music, a fundamental component of advanced musical study at Yale.”

The Brentano Quartet will anchor the School of Music’s chamber music program, serving as faculty coaches to the next generation of musicians. The ensemble will perform a concert each semester for the Oneppo Chamber Music Series at the School of Music, and will also spend part of each summer in residence at the Yale Summer School of Music/Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, where as artist faculty they will perform and teach.

“The Norfolk Festival is thrilled to welcome an ensemble with the international reputation of the Brentano Quartet — and such wonderful people, too,” says Paul Hawkshaw, Director of the Yale Summer School of Music. “We look forward to many summers of superb concerts and fine teaching with them.”

Within a few years of its formation in 1992, the Brentano Quartet had already garnered the prestigious Cleveland Quartet Award and the Naumburg Chamber Music Award. Since then, it has continued to earn accolades, including appointments as inaugural members of Lincoln Center’s Chamber Music Society Two and a yearlong residency at Wigmore Hall. The quartet has been in residence at Princeton University since 1999.

For the critically-acclaimed independent film “A Late Quartet,” the filmmakers turned to the Brentano String Quartet for the central music, Beethoven’s Opus 131. Earlier this year, the quartet served as the collaborative ensemble for the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.

“The Brentano String Quartet is a tremendously exciting addition to the faculty,” said Melvin Chen, Deputy Dean of YSM. “They will thrill audiences and inspire students, and their commitment to interdisciplinary projects will draw interest from the wider university community.”

The ensemble has performed numerous musical works pre-dating the string quartet as a medium, including music by Gesualdo, Purcell, and Josquin. It has also collaborated with some of the most important composers working today, including Elliott Carter, Charles Wuorinen, Chou Wen-chung, Steven Mackey, Bruce Adolphe, and György Kurtág.

The quartet has commissioned works from Wuorinen, Adolphe, Mackey, David Horne, and Gabriela Frank. One of their most recent collaborations is a new work by Mackey, “One Red Rose,” which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Another new commission is a piano quintet by the pioneering jazz pianist and composer Vijay Iyer, a winner of a 2013 MacArthur “Genius” Grant and a Yale alumnus.

Peter Oundjian, a member of the Yale School of Music faculty and former first violinist of the Tokyo String Quartet, noted that the quartet “exudes passion and integrity in everything they do. This is a most exciting development in the history of the Yale School of Music.”

“We are thrilled and honored to become part of the community at the Yale School of Music,” said violist Misha Amory. “As a former undergraduate at Yale, I particularly treasure my memories of being coached by Peter Oundjian, Kikuei Ikeda, and Kazuhide Isomura of the Tokyo Quartet. It is a privilege to have been invited to step into those shoes.”


  • Steve Wogaman says:

    Not just a “better deal” – better students. Yale is one of the best graduate music programs in the world. It’s not ALWAYS about the money, Norman.

  • william1951 says:

    Yale is the only Ivy League University that has a school of music. All the others only have small music departments that teach only musicology, theory, and composition, though students can sometimes get instrumental instruction on an adjunct basis. The view is that performance would lower academic standards. This situation seems to reinforce Noam Chomsky’s statement that that principle function of elite schools is socialization in elitism itself.

    • The name at the top should read William Osborne.

    • Petros Linardos says:


      While Yale is the only Ivy League University with a school of music, others have joint programs with major conservatories: Columbia with Julliard, Harvard with New England Conservatory. Others allow cross registration: UPenn with Curtis.

      Moreover, there are other US Universities that have their own first class music departments, such as Indiana or Rochester.

      To me applied music seems better integrated in US universities than in European ones. Am I overlooking something?

      The opportunities of music grads are another story, but let’s not get started about that all over.

      • There are fundamental weaknesses in sending students out to another institution for performance studies. The schools’ musical community and creativity are entirely altered without performance professors being part of the faculty, and without interacting with the students and other faculty on a daily basis. This lack of connection to performance is why the aesthetics and practice of composition in Ivy schools is so often so sterile and rarified — and with results quite notable in America’s new music world. It is astounding that only Yale has addressed this problem.

        And as you note, there are also problems with the European conservatory system which places schools of music apart from universities. Conservatory trained students in both the USA and Europe too often end up intellectually one-dimensional because they are not exposed to the wide range of thought a university offers. I’m very happy my studies were in a complete music department including performance studies situated within a major university.

  • Ignacio Martínez-Ybor says:

    Just how good a violinist was Einstein?

  • twiggs says:

    I like the good old days – Isaac Newton’s Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica is categorized in the Arts section of the Oxford or Cambridge campus libraries.