On January 23rd, the American based string quartet will grace the Virtuosi stage at the University of Winnipeg. Tune in every day at 1PM when host Chris Wolf will feature a different work by the ensemble.
They have been called the “The Dream Team” and were declared by the Washington Post “one of the gold-plated names in chamber music”. These statements come as no surprise when you consider that American first violinist Ralph Evans was a prizewinner in the International Tchaikovsky Competition, the "fiercest, sweatiest, most nerve-shredding competition in the classical world”; that Russian-born second violinist Efim Boico was chosen by Daniel Barenboim to be concertmaster of the Orchestre de Paris, that Canadian violist Juan-Miguel Hernandez recorded with Norah Jones and Chick Corea and the British cellist Robert Cohen, in the words of New York Stereo Review, "plays like a God”.
Ralph Evans Efim Boico
Juan-Miguel Hernandez Robert Cohen
Despite their unique and diverse musical makeup and the individual impact each artist has had on the world of music, there is an overwhelming force that drew them together and marks the Fine Arts Quartet as a musical entity like no other. They have an instantly identifiable sound, an intense beauty, a deeply warming, fluent communication that envelopes their audience. It has been called a sound from the golden era, a sound that restores and enriches.
The Fine Arts Quartet holds an extraordinary and legendary history of its own. Founded in Chicago in 1946, they have recorded more than 200 works and toured throughout the world. The thirty-two year membership of Evans and Boico has created a unity of violin sound like no other. Three years ago, Cohen brought his extraordinary musical passion to the Quartet, followed shortly by Hernandez with his dynamism and heartfelt warmth.
The Fine Arts Quartet are an inspiration to young chamber ensembles and have nurtured many of today's top international quartets whilst teaching as guest professors at the major conservatoires of Paris, Lyon, Lugano and London. They are Artists-in-Residence at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and give masterclasses at summer schools in the US and throughout Europe. They also go into the heart of communities, introducing music with flair, humour and passion to school children, demonstrating close-up their excitement and love for the music and their instruments.
The Quartet's recordings have received numerous distinctions. Most recently on the Naxos label:
- Fauré Quintets with pianist Cristina Ortiz "Gramophone award-winner and recording of legendary status" (Gramophone Magazine).
- Franck Quartet “Editor’s Choice" (Gramophone Magazine).
- Glazunov, Mendelssohn and Fauré CD’s were each "Recording of the Year" (Musicweb International).
- "Four American Quartets" album “BBC Music Magazine Choice”.
- Schumann “one of the very finest chamber music recordings of the year" (American Record Guide).
- Mozart Quintets "Critic's Choice" (American Record Guide).
- CMA/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming (contemporary music), given jointly by Chamber Music America and the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers.
- Many of the Quartet's Naxos recordings have been selected for Grammy® Awards entry lists in the "Best Classical Album" and/or "Best Chamber Music Performance" categories.
Recent special projects include the Mozart-Lachner project, recording two Mozart piano concertos in Ignaz Lachner's 19th century chamber transcriptions for piano, string quartet and bass, with the wonderful pianist Alon Goldstein.
A monthly WUWM National Public Radio series by Cohen called ‘On That Note’, and the creation and development of ‘Musical Heights Foundation’ by Hernandez, a nonprofit foundation bringing high-level musical teaching into developing countries.
The Fine Arts Quartet will be in Winnipeg Saturday January 23rd with The University of Winnipeg’s premier recital and chamber music series, Virtuosi Concerts. They will be joined by Brandon University's Michael Kim (piano). They will be performing works by Beethoven and Dvorak. To reserve your tickets call the Virtuosi Box Office at 204.786.9000
The Fine Arts Quartet was founded in 1946, although the group's members had actually begun working together as early as 1939 while playing in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The Quartet's first performance took place in 1940 with Leonard Sorkin, first violinist, Ben Senescu, second violinist, Sheppard Lehnhoff, violist, and George Sopkin, cellist. Military service in World War II intervened, however, and it was not until 1946, now with the new second violinist Joseph Stepansky, that the Quartet began to rehearse and perform regularly. The complete membership history of the Fine Arts Quartet, from 1946 to the present, is detailed here.
The Quartet performed on the ABC Radio Network's Sunday morning broadcasts from 1946 until 1954, and by the mid-fifties, was already considered one of America's finest quartets. There was an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, frequent performances on the Today Show, and starting in 1958, the Quartet began to tour Europe annually. In 1961, the Quartet toured Australia, and in the late sixties, the U.S. Department of State sponsored the Quartet's tours to Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand. By the late seventies, the Quartet had already performed in some 270 cities in 28 countries. The Quartet continued to broadcast for radio in America (especially for WFMT-Chicago), in Europe (e.g. the BBC), and for television (concerts and educational programs for National Public Television).
The Quartet was also extremely busy recording, releasing an astonishing quantity of works (over 100) during its first 30 years of existence, including cycles of chamber music by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Brahms, on such labels as Decca, Vox, Vanguard, and Concert Disc. But the Quartet was also appreciated for promoting contemporary music through performances, commissions, and recordings and played a major role in making composers such as Bartók, Shostakovich, Bloch, Babbitt, Wuorinen, Shifrin, Crawford-Seeger, Johnston, Husa, better known and accessible to the public. See the list of recordings with founding members Sorkin and Sopkin.
During its early history, the Quartet had an impressive list of firsts to its credit. The Quartet gave the American premiere performance of the Shostakovich Quartet No.3 and was the first to record that quartet for radio and 78 rpm discs (with Mitch Miller as producer). It released the first complete stereo recording of the Bartók quartets, the first American recordings of the complete Beethoven quartet cycle, and the first stereo tape recordings (Dvorak and Debussy quartets). It recorded the first quartet series on educational television and the first educational film for the Encyclopedia Brittanica. Finally, it was the first quartet to appear on the Today Show, and to accompany a ballet (American Ballet Theater in New York).
The Quartet's first teaching residency, 1952-1955, was at Northwestern University. In 1963, after many years of summer concerts at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, the Quartet was invited to become Quartet-in-Residence, and has been resident there ever since