The Alexander String Quartet has a large repertory and a large catalog of recordings, ranging from a pair of acclaimed Beethoven quartet cycles to contemporary music, and commissioning more than 30 new works.
The quartet has toured Europe on multiple occasions has gained a strong reputation beyond the U.S.
The Alexander String Quartet was founded in 1981 in New York. Its members since that time have been violinists Zakarias Grafilo and Frederick Lifsitz, violist Paul Yarbrough, and cellist Sandy Wilson. In the 1980s, the group scored significant competition victories, including those at the inaugural Concert Artists Guild Competition in 1982, the London International String Quartet Competition in 1985, and the Portsmouth International String Quartet Competition (now the Wigmore Hall London International String Quartet Competition) the same year; at Portsmouth they became the first American quartet to take the jury prize. The Alexander String Quartet became Ensemble-in-Residence for the series "San Francisco Performances" in 1989; since that time, they have been based in San Francisco and have been a major presence in the Bay Area chamber concert scene. They have also served as directors of the Morrison Chamber Music Center at San Francisco State University. The quartet has appeared at top American venues, including the Library of Congress in Washington and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. They have performed in most European countries and as far afield as the Philippines, collaborating with A-list artists such as Menahem Pressler and pianist Marc-André Hamelin. At home, they have been energetic supporters of contemporary music, commissioning quartets from such composers as Augusta Read Thomas, Jake Heggie, and Cindy Cox.
The international prestige of the Alexander String Quartet has been evident in their recording career, which was associated for many years with the label Pro Arte. In the late 1990s, they recorded a widely acclaimed cycle of Beethoven quartets for Pro Arte, returning to the Beethoven quartets in 2010 on Foghorn Classics. They have also won praise for their cycles of the string quartets of Bartók and Shostakovich, and have recorded many of the contemporary pieces they have commissioned. In 2019, the Alexander String Quartet teamed with pianist Joyce Yang for a recording of Dvorák's Piano Quintet in A major, Op. 81, and String Quartet in F major, Op. 96 ("American") on Foghorn Classics.