The ensemble prepares to take their final bow after more than 40 years together.

The Tokyo String Quartet have announced that their 2012–2013 concert season will be their last. Founded in 1969, the group has made a name for itself as one of the world’s leading chamber music ensembles, especially in the Beethoven string quartets. They have been artists-in-residence at Yale School of Music since 1977, and toured Australia for Musica Viva in 2009.

Last year, the quartet announced that two founding members, violinist Kikuei Ikeda and violist Kazuhide Isomura, were retiring, and the remaining two, violinist Martin Beaver and cellist Clive Greensmith, had instigated an international search for replacements. But they have called off the headhunters.

“It is a difficult prospect to replace one long-standing quartet member,” said Beaver, but “to replace two of them simultaneously is a Herculean task.

“With the retirement of our colleagues in our minds, we increasingly felt over the last few months that the most fitting way we could honour and celebrate our quartet’s long and illustrious career was to bring it to a graceful close.”

Added Greensmith, “It has been a humbling and extraordinary experience to be part of such an ensemble, but it is time to step away from the hectic travel schedule and allow each of us the opportunity to pursue our individual performing and teaching interests.”

The Tokyo Quartet leave a legacy of more than 40 landmark recordings on labels including Deutsche Grammophon and Harmonia Mundi.