[ Faculty General ]

Tokyo String Quartet looks to future

November 1, 2011

Dean Robert Blocker announced this morning that violist Kazuhide Isomura and second violinist Kikuei Ikeda will retire from the Tokyo String Quartet in June, 2013.

One of the world’s most distinguished chamber music ensembles, the Tokyo String Quartet was founded in 1969 and has been the quartet-in-residence at the Yale School of Music and the Yale Summer School of Music/Norfolk Chamber Music Festival since 1976. Dean Blocker said: “Kikuei Ikeda and Kazu Isomura made transformative contributions to the School and to its renowned chamber music program for more than 35 years. Throughout their time in the Tokyo Quartet, they and their colleagues have earned international acclaim for their artistry and their passion for the quartet literature.”

Isomura, who has been a member of the group since its inception, and Ikeda, who joined in 1974, will perform and teach with the quartet through the end of the 2012–2013 academic year. In the summer of 2013, a new violinist and violist will join Martin Beaver, first violin, and Clive Greensmith, cello.

The Tokyo String Quartet was thrust into the international spotlight in the early 1970s as a result of an exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon. Since that time, it has released more than 30 records and CDs on Deutsche Grammophon, BMG/RCA Victor Red Seal, Angel-EMI, CBS Masterworks, and Vox Cum Laude, and earned most of the world’s major recording prizes: the Grand Prix du Disque; the Montreux “Best Chamber Music Recording of the Year”; Stereo Review and Gramophone awards; and seven Grammy nominations. The Quartet is currently involved in a multi-disc project of the complete Beethoven string quartets for the Harmonia Mundi label. In the summer of 2012, with Ikeda and Isomura, it will join the Artis and Keller Quartets in the performance of the complete cycle of Beethoven quartets at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival.

Kazu Isomura coaching a student string quartet.

Throughout its history, the Tokyo String Quartet has collaborated with a remarkable array of artists and established an unparalleled record of teaching young chamber musicians. During its residence at the Yale School of Music, it has mentored numerous young chamber ensembles. The Biava, Alianza, and  Jasper Quartets are among the many active professional ensembles that have studied with the Tokyo Quartet at the Yale School of Music over the years. The Linden Quartet, now in its second year as the School’s graduate quartet-in-residence, has recently enjoyed successes including the 2010 Concert Artists Guild Competition and the prestigious A.N. and Pearl G. Barnett Fellowship.
As a young man, violinist Kikuei Ikeda attended the Toho Academy of Music in Japan before coming to the United States in 1971 to study with Dorothy DeLay at the Juilliard School. He was a prizewinner in the Mainichi, NHK and Haken competitions in Japan, the Washington International Competition for Strings in Washington, and the Vienna da Motta in Portugal.

Kazuhide Isomura, viola (pictured above, at right, coaching a student chamber ensemble), is also a graduate of the Toho Academy and Juilliard School. He served as assistant concertmaster of the Nashville Symphony before joining the Tokyo Quartet. Both Ikeda and Isomura plan to teach and coach chamber music after stepping down from the quartet.

The retirements of Isomura and Ikeda will be the occasion for the sixth personnel change in the history of the Tokyo Quartet. Peter Oundjian, who retired from the quartet to pursue a career in conducting, remains a member of the Yale School of Music Faculty and is the principal guest conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra of Yale.

Paul Hawkshaw, Deputy Dean of the School and director of the Norfolk Festival, said: “Kikuei Ikeda and Kazu Isomura will always have a very special place in the hearts of our students and audiences.  We very much look forward to thanking them and recognizing their accomplishments in public at one of their upcoming performances.”