The Alexander String Quartet, one of the country's most accomplished chamber ensembles, comes to Key Auditorium at St. John's College tomorrow for a free 8: 15 p.m. concert.
The quartet has performed in the musical capitals of four continents since its founding in 1981. In its second year, the San Francisco-based group became the first string quartet to win the Concert Artists Guild award.
By the mid-1980s, it had become the first American quartet to win first prize and the audience prize at London's International String Quartet Competition, where the group's Beethoven was blessed by the late Yehudi Menuhin.
"It was unbelievably good Beethoven, in conception, musicality, balance of voices, respect for the score, humor, pathos and emotional projection," the violinist said afterward. "There was absolutely nothing that was missing."
The Alexanders have since recorded music from a broad range of genres, but, true to Menuhin's assessment, it is their integral set of Beethoven's 15 quartets on the remarkably inexpensive Arte Nova label that has made the critics (this one included) stand up and take notice.
Tomorrow's concert will feature Opus 59, No. 2, the second of three quartets Beethoven dedicated to Count Andreas Razumovsky, Russia's ambassador to the Austrian court in Vienna. Razumovsky 2 is one of great works of Beethoven's "Middle Period," that first decade or so of the 19th century, during which Beethoven was blazing the trail of fledgling Romanticism with peerless and fearless originality.