Four bows, sixteen strings, one cohesive performance. The sound of the string quartet is instantly recognizable, with the tight harmonies and warm timbre of each instrument inviting audiences to lean in and listen closely. In Visionary String Quartets, we have gathered a selection of the many string quartet highlights in our catalog. From classical repertoire and contemporary compositions to pop covers, Visionary String Quartets demonstrates just how versatile the string quartet can be.

Dive into the chilling tale of an ancient violinist who uses the power of his strings to keep dark magical forces at bay. Sirius Quartet introduces THE MUSIC OF ERICH ZANN, composed by Michael J. Evans and based on the H.P. Lovecraft short horror story. The tale is brought to life by Sirius Quartet — extended techniques such as col legno battuto combined with the sheer power and artistry of Sirius (one of the three featured ensembles in PARMA’s next Call for Scores) make this album impossible to forget.

Switching gears to a more lighthearted listening experience, Altius Quartet introduces a reinterpretation of the Ben E. King favorite Stand By Me, arranged by the quartet’s cellist. From its sentimental cello entrance to the chorus of strings swelling together for the tune’s memorable refrain, Altius demonstrates how the string quartet can be accessible, forward-thinking, and genre-defying, all at the same time. An active recording ensemble, Altius recorded with PARMA artists in January 2019 as part of a Call for Scores album, meaning they will be adding to their already rich catalog very soon.

Axiom Quartet also makes their mark in the pop cover realm with tunes from Wagon Wheel to Billie Holiday’s Don’t Explain. These pieces in their debut album, AXIOMS: MOMENTS OF TRUTH, are paired with original compositions by the ensemble’s composer-in-residence Karl Blench. The album concludes with Blench’s full-length piece Axiom, connecting the entire album in a stunning, nine-minute performance. The premise of the piece is the search for truth, only to find that it has been present from the beginning, and Axiom’s performance certainly leaves listeners feeling enriched for having experienced it.

Houston-based Apollo Chamber Players add sophistication and flare to the lineup with two striking compositions. Performing notable composer Arthur Gottschalk’s Imagenes de Cuba, the ensemble brings an edge to the piece, particularly in the third movement, Timba, where pizzicato bows, syncopated rhythms, and the addition of percussion create a natural movement that one can’t help but sway to. Their performance on Marty Regan’s Splash of Indigo offers a different, yet equally compelling, listening experience. This Japanese-influenced composition offers thematic soundscapes that envelop the listener, and the unique voice of Apollo is the perfect grouping to make this musical concept come to life.

As these and the rest of the Visionary String Quartets demonstrate, the string quartet is a truly versatile grouping. From Pedroia Quartet bringing the works of multiple composers to dynamic life and the standout works of composers Samuel Adler and Virgil Thomson, to Sarah Wallin Huff’s eerie, evocative Anima Mechanicae: Soul of the Machine and many more, these pieces offer a unique look into the past, present, and future of the string quartet.