HARLEM QUARTET, praised for its "panache" by The New York Times, is "bringing a new attitude to classical music, one that is fresh, bracing and intelligent," says the Cincinnati Enquirer. The quartet’s mission is to advance diversity in classical music, engaging young and new audiences through the discovery and presentation of varied repertoire that includes works by minority composers. The 2015-16 concert season marked the debut of Felix Umansky formerly of the Linden String Quartet, as Harlem Quartet's cellist.
Since its public debut in 2006 at Carnegie Hall, the New York-based ensemble has performed throughout the U.S. as well as in France, the U.K., Belgium, Brazil, Panama, Canada, Venezuela, and South Africa, where under the auspices of the U.S. State Department in May 2012 they spent two weeks performing concerts and engaging in outreach activities. In 2013 they completed their third and final year in the Professional String Quartet Training Program at New England Conservatory and participated in NEC’s string quartet exchange program in Paris, working with violinist Günter Pichler in a masterclass setting.
In addition to performing on chamber-music series around the country, they have collaborated with such distinguished performers as violinist Itzhak Perlman; cellist Carter Brey; clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera; pianist Misha Dichter, with whom the quartet made their Kennedy Center debut in February 2013; and jazz legends Chick Corea and Gary Burton, whom they joined for their six-month "Hot House" tour that began at Tanglewood in summer 2012. Later that year the quartet made their performance debut with another jazz virtuoso, the British saxophonist, clarinetist, and composer Tim Garland.
Each member of the quartet is a seasoned solo artist, having appeared with such orchestras as the New York Philharmonic, the Boston Pops, and the Atlanta, Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, National, New World, and Pittsburgh symphony orchestras. As an ensemble they perform not only in chamber-music settings but also as soloists in works written for Solo String Quartet and orchestra. Their most recent such collaboration was with Music Director Mei-Ann Chen and the Chicago Sinfonietta, where in June 2012 they gave the world premiere of Bernstein’s West Side Story as arranged for string quartet and orchestra by Randall Craig Fleischer. The quartet reprised their performance of that score in September 2012 with the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra under Fleischer’s direction, and again in December 2012 with the Santa Fe Concert Association. Chicago Sinfonietta and the quartet recorded the West Side Story arrangement, along with works for string quartet and orchestra by Michael Abels and Benjamin Lees, for the Cedille label.
Harlem Quartet has been featured on WNBC, CNN, the Today Show, WQXR-FM, and the News Hour with Jim Lehrer. In 2009 they performed for President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House and appeared Christmas morning on NBC's Today Show. They made their European debut in October 2009 performing at the residence of the U.S. ambassador to the U.K., and returned to Europe as guest artists and faculty members of the Musica Mundi International Festival in Belgium. In early 2011 they were featured guest artists at the Panama Jazz Festival in Panama City. In June 2012 they made their debut with the Montreal Jazz Festival.
Their recording career began in 2007 when White Pine Music issued Take the "A" Train, a release featuring the string quartet version of that jazz standard by Billy Strayhorn; the CD was highlighted that year in the November issue of Strings magazine. A second CD, featuring works of Walter Piston, was released in 2010 by Naxos. The quartet’s third recording, released in early 2011, is a collaboration with pianist Awadagin Pratt and showcases works by American composer Judith Lang Zaimont. More recently the quartet collaborated with jazz pianist Chick Corea in two recording projects, including a Grammy-winning Hot House album that included "Mozart Goes Dancing," which won a separate Grammy as Best Instrumental Composition.
Harlem Quartet was founded in 2006 by The Sphinx Organization, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to building diversity in classical music and providing access to music education in underserved communities. The quartet is represented worldwide by Sciolino Artist Management in New York City.
Harlem Quartet Members:
Ilmar Gavilan, violin
Melissa White, violin
Jaime Amador, viola
Felix Umansky, cello