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Quartet featured in film soundtrack

A recording by the Brentano String Quartet was featured in last year’s film “A Late Quartet.”
A recording by the Brentano String Quartet was featured in last year’s film “A Late Quartet.”
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The Brentano String Quartet, which presents a concert in Santa Fe on Friday night as guests of Santa Fe Pro Musica, has achieved an unusual kind of celebrity status.

The quartet’s recording of Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Op. 131 is the soundtrack for the November 2012 film “A Late Quartet” starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken and Catherine Keener.

“The director, Yaron Zilberman, knew he wanted someone to record Beethoven’s opus 131 for the film and went around listening to different quartets to find the one he wanted to work with,” explained Brentano’s first violinist Mark Steinberg. “Apparently, he came to one of our concerts, although we didn’t know it at the time. He called us and asked if we would do the recording.”

If you go
WHAT: Santa Fe Pro Musica presents the Brentano String Quartet
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 1
WHERE: St. Francis Auditorium, New Mexico Art Museum, 107 W. Palace Ave., Santa Fe
HOW MUCH: Tickets $20-$65. Call 505-988-4640

The initial proposal from Zilberman was that he would commission the Brentano String Quartet to make a special recording of the piece for the film.

“We wanted to record it for ourselves, and eventually we did that before we worked things out with the director,” Steinberg said. “He decided to use our recording for the film instead of having us make another recording.”

When movie-goers watch the actors play Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 14, they are really listening to the Brentano String Quartet.

“We didn’t have much time on the set,” said Steinberg. “We played the piece for the main actors one evening. Our cellist Nina Lee has a walk-on role in the film where she appears as herself. I know that was exciting for her.”

Lee, who is the newest member of the ensemble, is the only instrumentalist who is not a founding member. Violinists Steinberg and Serena Canin and violist Misha Amory formed the Brentano String Quartet in 1992. All three founding members had spent time as students at Taos School of Music, which has been offering an intensive eight-week chamber music program in Taos for 50 years. Today, the Brentano String Quartet spends two weeks every summer mentoring young musicians at their alma mater.

“We have a close connection with Taos and love it,” said Steinberg. “While we’ve played at St. John’s College, we’ve never played at St. Francis Auditorium in Santa Fe.”

The Brentano String Quartet’s concert at St. Francis Auditorium on Friday night features performances of Haydn’s String Quartet in E-Flat Major, Bartok’s String Quartet No. 4 and Brahms’ String Quartet in A Minor.

“We play these pieces a lot, but not necessarily together on the same program,” said Steinberg. “We haven’t recorded any of these works before.”

The Brentano String Quartet, which has recorded works by Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn as well as pieces by contemporary composers including Steven Mackey and Bruce Adolphe, is named for Beethoven’s love Antonie Brentano. Early in its career the group won the Cleveland Quartet Award and the Naumburg Chamber Music Award.

In recent years the Brentano has appeared in Carnegie Hall in New York, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Konzerthaus in Vienna and the Sydney Opera House.

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