Formed in 1987, the ensemble will retire at the end of the 2023-24 season

orion quartet

The Orion Quartet

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The Orion Quartet has announced it will retire at the end of the 2023-24 season, concluding a 36-year partnership.

’Having had the privilege for so many years to explore and perform some of the greatest music ever written, we have come to feel that many of these works have actually become a part of our physical and spiritual being,’ the quartet said in a statement. ’We have chosen to leave our audiences with some final presentations that still fully articulate what we have experienced in this wondrous journey. We look forward to continuing to reach out to inspire people with our recordings, individual performances, and our love of teaching.’

The quartet was formed in 1987 by violinists Daniel Phillips and Todd Phillips, brothers who share the first violin chair equally, and cellist Timothy Eddy with the original violist Catherine Metz. In 1993, Steven Tenenbom became the quartet’s violist, constituting the ensemble’s lineup which has remained unchanged for nearly 30 years.  

The quartet’s final concert will take place at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in Spring 2024. The members of the quartet plan to continue pursuing their individual careers as soloists and chamber musicians, and to continue teaching at the various schools with which they are affiliated, including the Juilliard School, the Curtis Institute of Music, Manhattan School of Music, Mannes College, Queens College, Bard College, Rutgers University and Cleveland Institute of Music.  

Over the course of its career, the quartet has been responsible for diverse programming that includes not only staple quartet repertoire, but also key works of the 20th and 21st centuries, and new commissions.  The quartet has contributed to the development and expansion of the string quartet repertoire with 20 commissions, having premiered work by composers including Chick Corea, Brett Dean, Alexander Goehr, Aaron Jay Kernis, Leon Kirchner, Wynton Marsalis, Marc Neikrug, John Harbison, and Peter Lieberson.  

The Orion Quartet has developed special projects and collaborations that aimed to bring chamber music to new audiences. As part of its 25th anniversary in 2013, the group collaborated with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company in a two-week project that featured music by Mozart, Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Ravel, and Beethoven. It was presented at The Greene Space and on WQXR and included a discussion among members of the Orion Quartet and choreographer Bill T. Jones.   

Another major project was Beethoven 2000, a series of six free concerts presented by CMS as a ’millennium gift to the city of New York,’ in which the quartet performed (without a fee) all 16 Beethoven quartets as a cycle for the first time. The concerts supported six nonprofit children’s educational organisations in New York by providing free tickets to their constituents, offering outreach programs in advance of the concerts, honouring one organisation at each concert and encouraging donations. The participating organisations included established institutions such as the Brooklyn Children’s Museum and Harlem School of the Arts as well as smaller, newer organisations, such as the Songs of Love Foundation, which creates personalised songs for children facing illness and other challenges.   

The Orion Quartet’s recordings reflect its musical diversity. The ensemble has achieved a reputation for its interpretations of Beethoven’s string quartets and has recorded the complete cycle for KOCH International Classics. Its 2010 Bridge Records release of various Peter Lieberson works featured the premiere recording of the composer’s Piano Quintet with Peter Serkin. In addition to the complete Beethoven quartets, the Orion Quartet released Leon Kirchner’s complete string quartets on Albany Records. Past recordings also include Wynton Marsalis’s first classical composition for strings, At the Octoroon Balls (String Quartet No. 1) for Sony Classical, Dvorák’s ’American’ String Quartet and Piano Quintet with Peter Serkin and Mendelssohn’s Octet with the Guarneri Quartet, both on Arabesque.