"...The Moscow, which presented an all- Russian program at Southern Methodist University’s Caruth Auditorium, proved a pleasant surprise. This was deft, elegant playing, passionate where called for, but never hysterical. It was a welcome reprieve from the turbocharged assaults of so many American quartets – and of more and more Europeans who imitate them."
— The Dallas Morning News
MSQ enjoyed a special rapport with Alfred Schnittke. In Moscow in 1980, the MSQ premiered his Second Quartet. During the recording of this piece the composer himself worked as the sound producer.
Members of the MSQ have especially significant memories related to the performance of this piece during the fall of the Berlin Wall. Willie Brandt organized a commemoration of the event at the Berlin Stadium, where the Moscow String Quartet was invited to play this composition. The composer himself was the guest of honor at that celebration.
The New Russian World wrote: “…today, many years after its composition, its influence seems to be even more vivid and strong. I believe that it is mainly due to the outstanding interpretation of the Moscow String Quartet, for which this Schnittke piece became not only a constant part of the repertoire, but a sort of business card as well.”
The MSQ also constantly performs Schnittke’s First and Third Quartets, and the Canon in Memory of Stravinsky, as well as the Piano Quintet with many outstanding pianists including Gary Graffman, with whom they made a recording.
In 1990, Alfred Schnittke wrote, “After the Borodin Quartet, the Moscow String Quartet is the leading exponent of my music and of contemporary Soviet music in general. They have performed my First Quartet on numerous occasions, and were the first performers of my Second Quartet, which was composed especially for them and designed for their unique musical personalities. The quartet also performs all of my chamber music regularly in the USSR, Europe and the U.S.A. This extraordinary ensemble distinguishes itself with refined musical style, an unusually beautiful sound and palette of colors, and a tremendous artistic temperament. The Moscow String Quartet is, in my opinion, one of the most outstanding quartets in the world today."
A little later MSQ started their work with another outstanding contemporary composer, Sophia Gubaidulina. It was the MSQ who premiered her Trio for Strings in 1988 in the Salle Gaveau in Paris. At the same time the Moscow String Quartet added Gubaidulina’s First, Second and Third Quartets to their repertoire and recited them successfully both in Russia and abroad. For example, there is a recording of their performance of Gubaidulina’s Third Quartet at the Richter “December Nights” Festival (Melodia) and part of the Trio for Strings was included in a BBC film about Russian composers. Gubaidulina invited the ensemble to perform at her jubilee recitals in Germany in 1992, and in London and New York in 2002.
In honor of her 60th birthday in 1992, the MSQ played her Quartet and Trio in various cities in Germany. When her 70th was celebrated in London in 2002, the MSQ played four Quartets and the String Trio in Royal Festival Hall. The Quartet also appeared in the BBC documentary “The Fire and the Rose”. Gubaidulina also visited New York City that same year, and the Quartet played at her two jubilee recitals there.
Gubaidulina still speaks warmly of the Quartet and of their work together: "...Their work is perfection, but at the same time displays such a full, deep seriousness in the art. Such tone, such phrasing, all played with the highest virtuosity and reverence to the music!"
The MSQ’s friendship and collaboration for many years with Edison Denisov started at approximately the same time the musicians were working with Schnittke and other ‘unofficial’ and ‘non-conformist’ composers of the Soviet underground. Members of the quartet actively promoted Denisov’s chamber music in Moscow and other regions of the Soviet Union.
The beginning of the quartet’s performances in the West was also related to Denisov, who was always a passionate promulgator of the quartet, considering it to be one of the best in the world. The quartet participated at Denisov’s recitals in Italy and Bulgaria.
Denisov’s Piano, Flute and Clarinet Quintets were recorded by the MSQ and released by MCA in 1990, and later by the Chant du Monde recording company.