Momenta: the plural of momentum – four individuals in motion towards a common goal. This is the idea behind the Momenta Quartet, whose eclectic vision encompasses contemporary music of all aesthetic backgrounds alongside great music from the recent and distant past. The New York City-based quartet has premiered over 200 works, collaborated with over 250 living composers and was praised by The New York Times for its “diligence, curiosity and excellence.” In the words of The New Yorker’s Alex Ross, “few American players assume Haydn’s idiom with such ease.”
The quartet came into being in November 2004, when composer Matthew Greenbaum invited violist Stephanie Griffin to perform Mario Davidovsky’s String Trio for events celebrating Judaism and Culture at New York’s Symphony Space and Temple University in Philadelphia. A residency through the composition department at Temple University ensued, and the rehearsals and performances were so satisfying that the players decided to form a quartet. Through this residency, Momenta gave two annual concerts highlighting the talents of Temple University student composers alongside 20th-century masterworks and works from the classical canon, repeating the programs at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture. From the outset, Momenta treated all music equally, devoting as much time, care and commitment to the student works as to the imposing musical monuments.
Word of Momenta’s passionate advocacy for emerging composers spread quickly. Composers started inviting Momenta for similar concerts and residencies at other academic institutions. Today, Momenta’s educational-performing circuit includes Binghamton, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, Hawaii Pacific, Michigan State, New York, Temple, Tufts, Washington and Yeshiva Universities; Bard, Barnard, Bates, Haverford, Hunter, Ithaca, Lehman and Williams Colleges; and Boston, Cincinnati, Eastman and Mannes conservatories. Momenta has received two Koussevitzky Foundation commission grants, for Malaysian composer Kee Yong Chong in 2009 and for Bolivian composer Agustín Fernández in 2011; a Barlow Foundation commission for Claude Baker in 2016; a Jerome Foundation grant to commission Eric Nathan in 2013; and a Chamber Music America commission for Alvin Singleton, whose resulting work, “Hallelujah Anyhow” (2019), is featured prominently in Momenta’s repertoire. Deeply committed to the musical avant-garde of the developing world, Momenta has premiered and championed the works of Tony Prabowo (Indonesia), Cergio Prudencio (Bolivia) and Hana Ajiashvili (Georgia); has collaborated with numerous gamelan ensembles; and in 2018, was brought by the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Embassy La Paz to Cochabamba, Bolivia for new-music concerts and a teaching-performing residency at the Instituto Laredo.
Momenta has appeared at such prestigious venues as the Library of Congress, National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery, Rubin Museum, Miller Theatre at Columbia University, the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study, Chamber Music Cincinnati, and the Louisville and Philadelphia Chamber Music Societies. Festival credits include the renowned Cervantino Festival in Mexico; MATA; Music from Japan; Ostrava Days in the Czech Republic; Red Note New Music; the Smithsonian’s “Performing Indonesia”; the Yellow Barn Artist Residency; and since 2015, the quartet’s own annual member-curated Momenta Festival in New York City, featuring world premieres and samplings from Momenta's unique personal repertoire.
In the 2021-22 season, Momenta is in residence at Binghamton University, having just concluded as Artists-in-Residence at Bates College. Other highlights include masterclasses and concerts at Haverford and Williams Colleges; outreach as a resident ensemble with the Memphis-based IRIS Orchestra; appearances on the Princeton Symphony Chamber Series and the Music From Japan festival; and “Concourse Counterpoint,” a community series at the South Bronx’s historic Andrew Freedman Home, curated by Momenta violist Stephanie Griffin. The next in-person installment of the Momenta Festival resumes in NYC in June 2022. The quartet also continues its collaboration with Mexican actor/director Fernando Villa Proal on “The Lost String Quartet,” a theatrical string quartet for children with an original score by Stephanie Griffin.
Momenta has recorded for the Albany, Bridge, Centaur, Furious Artisans, Innova, Navona, New Focus, New World and PARMA labels; and has been broadcast on WQXR, Q2 Music, Austria’s Oe1 and Vermont Public Radio. The quartet’s debut album, “Similar Motion,” featuring visionary works by Debussy, Philip Glass and Arthur Kampela, is available on Albany Records. Upcoming recording adventures include a project to perform and record all thirteen string quartets by Mexican microtonal maverick Julián Carrillo (1875-1965) and an American album featuring diverse works by Elizabeth Brown, Jason Hwang, Shawn Jaeger, Yusef Lateef, and Roberto Sierra. In 2022, New World Records will release Momenta’s album “Hallelujah Anyhow,” the premiere recording of Alvin Singleton’s complete string quartets.