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The Alexander String Quartet playing on stage. From left, Zakarias Grafilo, violin; Frederick Lifsitz, violin; Paul Yarbrough, viola; and Sandy Wilson, cello. Photo by Phil Gottling

Musicians on the Move
The Alexander String Quartet, SFSU's ensemble in residence, has released a new CD, "Renascence," a collection of Bartok, Ravel and Bach. Like Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem of the same name (an Anglicized version of "renaissance"), the selections reflect a process of rebirth. The final track, for example, is a Bach fugue originally composed for "Well-Tempered Clavier," but rearranged by Mozart for a string quartet.

The Alexander String Quartet formed in New York City in 1981 and four years later became the first American quartet to win the London International String Quartet Competition. In 1989, the quartet took up residency at SFSU, where members direct the Morrison Chamber Music Center's instructional program and, in cooperation with San Francisco Performances, teach and perform at Bay Area schools. The busy musicians also teach chamber music classes at SFSU and perform across the world.

How do they keep up? "We plan ahead carefully and try very hard not to screw up," says cellist Sandy Wilson, who co-founded the group with violist Paul Yarbrough. (Sandy is short for Alexander in Britain, where Wilson grew up.)

Just a few weeks after the September release of "Renascence," the quartet was off to New York City to record a three-disc set
of Mozart's string quartets, for release in early 2004, stopping off for performances in Illinois, Louisiana and Pennsylvania.

The Alexander String Quartet performs Jan. 24, Feb. 7 and March 13 at San Francisco's Herbst Theater.

-- Jennifer Roolf

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