April 15: Kepler Quartet releases the “Mount Everest of String Quartets”

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April 15: Kepler Quartet releases Volume 3 of Ben Johnston’s complete string quartets
New CD completes Kepler’s composer-supervised cycle of Johnston’s ten microtonal quartets
“Genius playing” – Gramophone Magazine
Ben Johnston and Kepler Quartet
Kepler Quartet with Ben Johnston
On April 15, 2016, Kepler Quartet crosses the finish line of a 14-year odyssey, releasing the third and final volume of Ben Johnston’s string quartets, just one month after the composer’s 90th birthday.
Volume 3 of Ben Johnston’s complete string quartets (New World Records 80730) includes Nos. 6, 7 and 8, and a ‘bonus track’: Quietness, for string quartet and narrator – with Johnston himself voicing the narration.
Kepler Quartet chose to tackle the most difficult works of the cycle in this final volume, especially Quartet No. 7, dubbed “the Mount Everest of String Quartets” by Kyle Gann, who called it “the most difficult string quartet ever written.” The number of its distinct pitches -1200 – is a hundred times the amount of tones that most string players are ever asked to play.
READ an extensive essay about Ben Johnston and his string quartets on New Music Box
HEAR an interview with Kepler Quartet’s Sharan Leventhal
The Kepler Quartet Completes Recording the Ben Johnston String Quartets
VIDEO: The Kepler Quartet Completes Recording the Ben Johnston String Quartets
Johnston studied with Milhaud, Partch, and Cage, has an uniquely American voice, and has composed an impressive – and little-known – body of work. His microtonal string quartets are “among the most striking accomplishments in American music” (The New York Times). Kepler Quartet worked closely with Johnston in recording the complete set of his string quartets, and in the process got to know both the music and the composer intimately.
Ben Johnston’s String Quartets No. 6, 7 and 8 performed by Kepler Quartet will be released by New World Records on April 15.
Kepler Quartet
String Quartets by Ben Johnston
Volume III: Kepler Quartet
Ben Johnston String Quartets No. 6, 7 & 8
(New World Records 80730-2)
String Quartet No. 7


String Quartet No. 8
Vigorous, Aggressive
Lazy, Rocking

String Quartet No. 6
Legato expressivo


Kepler Quartet was formed in response to the enthusiastic audience and critics’ reception of their world-premiere performance of Ben Johnston’s String Quartet No. 10 in April of 2002.
Violinists Sharan Leventhal and Eric Segnitz, violist Brek Renzelman and cellist Karl Lavine found working together under Mr. Johnston’s guidance so positive an experience that it eventually culminated in a Johnston 10-string quartet cycle recording project. The composer’s steadfast belief in his system, and his generous confidence that the quartet could understand and achieve his musical aims were key factors in the success of this recording. For further information, please visit www.keplerquartet.com.


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