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Plucking the final string

by Mariko Kato

The Vermeer Quartet, the internationally renowned string ensemble formed in Marlboro, Vermont, will play their final tour of Japan Sept. 24 to Oct. 7, before retirement at the end of the year. They have played in Japan four times since 1996, and this time they will teach talented young students in masterclasses that are open to the public, as well as performing eight concerts.

Since its formation in 1969, the Vermeer Quartet has been considered one of the world’s finest chamber music ensembles; and as well as touring around the world they have been the resident artist faculty of Northern Illinois University for 37 years. They are as experienced at teaching as performing, having presented masterclasses since 1978 at the Royal Northern College of Music in England, where they are fellows.

Over the years, their recordings of less-performed repertoire have gained many fans — not least their CD of Shostakovich and Schnittke piano quintets with pianist Boris Berman, which in 2003 collared the ensemble their second Grammy nomination. But for this tour the Vermeer Quartet return to familiar ground, bidding farewell to Japanese fans with a challenging run of the complete Beethoven quartets.

The Vermeer Quartet will play in Tokyo, Ibaraki and Miyagi Sept. 24 to Oct. 7. Audiences will be treated to a talk event at Kioi Hall, Tokyo, on Sept. 24 (2 p.m.). Concerts take place at Kioi Hall (Sept. 27, 28, Oct. 2, 3 at 7 p.m. and Oct. 6, 7 at 3 p.m.); Tsukuba Nova Hall, Ibaraki (Sept. 29, 3 p.m.); and Nakaniida Bach Hall, Miyagi (Sept. 30, 2 p.m.). Open masterclasses will be held at Aspia Hall, Tokyo (Oct. 4, 1 p.m.) and Geinokadensha, Tokyo (Oct. 5, 1 p.m.). Ticket prices vary for each event. For tickets and more information, call (0570) 02-9990.