The St. Lawrence String Quartet (SLSQ) has established itself among the world-class chamber ensembles of its generation. Its mission: bring every piece of music to the audience in vivid color, with pronounced communication and teamwork, and great respect to the composer.
Since winning both the Banff International String Quartet Competition and Young Concert Artists International Auditions in 1992, the quartet has delighted audiences with its spontaneous, passionate, and dynamic performances. Alex Ross of The New Yorker magazine writes, "the St. Lawrence are remarkable not simply for the quality of their music making, exalted as it is, but for the joy they take in the act of connection."
The SLSQ is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a new recording of Haydn and Dvorák quartets through a partnership with the innovative company ArtistShare.com. ArtistShare offers artists a ground-breaking way to embark on a recording project: the musicians maintain complete creative control, communicate directly with fans, and offer them a way to experience the project from its inception to fruition, as well as participate at the level they wish, from a free download to various membership tiers.
In concert, the foursome regularly delivers traditional quartet repertoire, but is also fervently committed to performing and expanding the works of living composers. This season sees them performing new works by both John Adams and Osvaldo Golijov. Adams penned his “String Quartet” (co-commissioned by The Juilliard School, Stanford Lively Arts, and the Banff Centre) expressly for the St. Lawrence, who premiered the work at Juilliard in January 2009. Golijov's forthcoming new work (commissioned by Stanford Lively Arts) is expected to build on the success of their previous collaboration, which culminated in the twice-Grammy-nominated SLSQ recording of the composer's Yiddishbbuk (EMI) in 2002. The quartet also paid tribute to a lineup of Canadian composers with performances of five new string quartets around their native country. The St. Lawrence has active working relationships with numerous other composers, including R. Murray Schafer, Christos Hatzis, Jonathan Berger, Ka Nin Chan, Roberto Sierra, and Mark Applebaum.
The SLSQ has been involved in numerous inventive collaborations, including projects with the renowned Pilobolus Dance Theatre and the Emerson Quartet. In 2007 they joined with soprano Heidi Grant Murphy and pianist Kevin Murphy to premiere Roberto Sierra's “Songs from the Diaspora” – a commission through the Music Accord consortium. They have also performed R. Murray Shafer's Concerto for Quartet and Orchestra “4-40” with Peter Oundjian and the Toronto Symphony, Emmanuel Villaume and the Spoleto Festival Orchestra, and Yuli Turovsky with I Musici de Montreal.
Early in their career, the SLSQ was privileged to study with the Emerson, Tokyo and Juilliard String Quartets, and have for many years been passionate educators themselves. Since 1998 they have held the position of Ensemble in Residence at Stanford University. This residency includes working with students of music as well as extensive collaborations with other faculty and departments using music to explore a myriad of topics. The foursome's passion for opening up musical arenas to players and listeners alike is evident in their annual summer chamber music seminar at Stanford and their many forays into the depths of musical meaning with preeminent music educator Robert Kapilow.
Violist Lesley Robertson is a founding member of the group, and hails from Edmonton Alberta. Cellist Christopher Costanza is from Utica, NY and joined the quartet in 2003. Violinists Geoff Nuttall and Scott St. John both grew up in London, Ontario; Geoff is a founding member and Scott joined in 2006. Depending on concert repertoire, the two alternate the role of first violin. All four members of the quartet live and teach at beautiful Stanford University, in the Bay Area of California.
The SLSQ is deeply committed to bringing music to less traditional venues outside the classroom or concert hall. Regardless of the venue, the St. Lawrence players maintain a strong desire to share the wonders of chamber music with their listeners, a characteristic of the foursome that has led them to a more informal performance style than one might expect from chamber musicians. “Play every concert like it's your last; every phrase like it's the most important thing you've ever said,” Geoff Nuttall asserts. “Remember that the only reason you're there is to make people cry and sweat and shiver, and give them that incredible sense of creation happening before your eyes. That's the reason we all play. Otherwise there's no point.”