It's time to say goodbye: After more than 40 years, the members of Tokyo String Quartet have decided they will disband at the end of the 2012-13 season.
Several months ago, the group had announced that its last two founding members, violinist Kikuei Ikeda and violist Kazuhide Isomura, would retire in June 2013, and that violinist Martin Beaver and cellist Clive Greensmith were beginning a search for new colleagues. However, the quartet has decided to disband altogether. In an official notice posted on their website, Beaver says: "It is a difficult prospect to replace one long-standing quartet member. To replace two of them simultaneously is a Herculean task. With the retirement of our colleagues in our minds, we increasingly felt over the last few months that the most fitting way we could honor and celebrate our quartet's long and illustrious career was to bring it to a graceful close."
Officially founded at Juilliard in 1969, the Tokyo players originally found inspiration at Tokyo's Toho School of Music, where they worked with Hideo Saito (who also mentored Seiji Ozawa and after whom Ozawa named his Saito Kinen Festival). Today, East Asian players form a huge presence in Western classical music, but when the Tokyo Quartet first burst onto the scene, they were pioneers. They have made more than 40 widely hailed recordings, including complete cycles of Beethoven, Schubert and Bartok quartets, which have earned the Diapason d'Or prize, a Gramophone Award and seven Grammy nominations.