Harlem Quartet has been praised for its "panache" in The New York Times and hailed in the Cincinnati Enquirer for “bringing a new attitude to classical music, one that is fresh, bracing and intelligent.” It has also won plaudits from such veteran musicians as Jazz at Lincoln Center woodwind virtuoso Ted Nash, who declared in a 2018 Playbill article, “Harlem Quartet is one of the greatest string quartets I have ever heard. They can play anything.” Since its public debut at Carnegie Hall in 2006, the ensemble has thrilled audiences and students throughout the U.S. as well as in the U.K., France, Belgium, Brazil, Panama, Canada, Venezuela, Japan, Ethiopia, and South Africa.
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 composers of color. Passion for this work has made the quartet a leading ensemble in both educational and community engagement activities. It began a multi-year residency with London’s Royal College of Music in 2018. From 2015 to 2020 it led an annual workshop at Music Mountain in Falls Village, Connecticut. In 2021 it began two other institutional affiliations: as the inaugural Grissom Artist in Residence at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, and as Quartet in Residence at Montclair State University in northeastern New Jersey.
Highlights of Harlem Quartet’s 2021-22 season include a concert at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, with pianist Joseph Kalichstein; a collaboration with the Catalyst Quartet at the Chamber Music Society of Detroit; engagements with Carnegie Hall Citywide and the Morgan Library in New York City, as well as chamber music societies in Little Rock, Raleigh, Lewes (DE) and Syracuse; and a partnership with Cuban pianist-composer Aldo López-Gavilán in concerts at the Phoenix Chamber Music Society, the Ensemble Music Society of Indianapolis, Nebraska’s Lincoln Friends of Chamber Music, and Virginia’s Shenandoah Conservatory.
In 2012, Harlem Quartet and the Chicago Sinfonietta led by Music Director Mei-Ann Chen premiered Randall Craig Fleischer’s arrangement for string quartet and orchestra of music from West Side Story, and together they recorded that arrangement for Cedille Records along with works for string quartet and orchestra by Michael Abels and Benjamin Lees. The quartet collaborated with jazz pianist Chick Corea in a Grammy-winning Hot House album that included Corea’s "Mozart Goes Dancing," which won a separate Grammy as Best Instrumental Composition. Harlem Quartet’s latest album, the July 2020 release Cross Pollination, features works by Debussy, William Bolcom, Dizzy Gillespie, and Guido López-Gavilán.
Harlem Quartet was founded in 2006 by the Sphinx Organization, a national nonprofit dedicated to building diversity in classical music and providing access to music education in underserved communities. It is represented worldwide by New York-based Sciolino Artist Management.
Harlem Quartet members:
Ilmar Gavilán, violin
Melissa White, violin
Jaime Amador, viola
Felix Umansky, cello
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