Fine Arts Quartet
The Fine Arts Quartet is a chamber music ensemble founded in Chicago, USA in 1946 by Leonard Sorkin and George Sopkin. The Quartet, based at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee since 1963, has recorded and toured internationally for over half a century. Violinists Ralph Evans and Efim Boico (who have been playing together in the Quartet for nearly 30 years), violist Nicolò Eugelmi, and cellist Robert Cohen perform worldwide each season.
Although the Fine Arts Quartet was founded in 1946, the group's members had 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, Ben Senescu, Sheppard Lehnhoff, and George Sopkin. 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 Quartet members have helped nurture many young international ensembles. Their first teaching residency, 1951–1954, was at Northwestern University. In 1963, the Quartet was invited to become Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, and its members have been professors there ever since. In recent years, they have also been guest professors at the national music conservatories of Paris and Lyon, as well as at the summer music schools of Yale University and Indiana University. They have appeared as jury members of major competitions such as Evian, Shostakovich, and Bordeaux. Documentaries on the Fine Arts Quartet have appeared on both French and American public television.
Early recordings and performance
The Quartet performed on the ABC Radio Network's Sunday morning broadcasts from 1946 until 1954. In the mid-fifties, there was an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, performances on the Today Show, and starting in 1958, the Quartet began to tour Europe annually. In the late sixties, the United States Department of State sponsored the Quartet's tours to Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand, and by the late seventies, the Quartet had performed in 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 released over 100 works 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, Saga, and Concert Disc. The Quartet also performed contemporary music in performances, commissions, and recordings, and helped to make composers such as Bartók, Shostakovich, Bloch, Babbitt, Wuorinen, Martinon, Hindemith, Shifrin, Crawford-Seeger, Johnston, and Husa better known and accessible to the public. Their recordings of the six quartets of Béla Bartók followed a television series featuring a performance of each, preceded by interviews and commentary by the performers, with musical illustrations. The quartet was an advocate of what was then still comparatively unfamiliar and avant-garde repertoire.
The Quartet has recorded over 200 works. Their latest releases include the piano quartets and quintets of Saint-Saëns and Schumann, the string quartets of Zimbalist and Kreisler, "Harmonies du Soir" by Ysaÿe for quartet and string orchestra, the two Saint-Saëns string quartets, three Beethoven string quintets, the Franck string quartet and piano quintet, the two Fauré piano quintets, the complete Bruckner chamber music (including his string quartet and quintet), quartets by American composers (Antheil, Herrmann, Glass, Evans), the complete Schumann string quartets, the complete Mendelssohn string quintets, chamber music by Glazunov, the complete Dohnányi string quartets and piano quintets, and the complete early Beethoven quartets.
The Quartet's Fauré quintets CD on Naxos with pianist Cristina Ortiz was among the five recordings for which music producer Steven Epstein won a Grammy Award in 2010 ("Producer of the Year, Classical"). It was also was named a "Gramophone award-winner and recording of legendary status" in the 2012 Gramophone Classical Music Guide. Its Glazunov, Mendelssohn, and Fauré CDs were each named a "Recording of the Year" by Musicweb International in 2007, 2008, 2009, respectively. Their "Four American Quartets" album was designated a "BBC Music Magazine Choice" in 2008. The Quartet's Schumann CD was called "one of the very finest chamber music recordings of the year" by the American Record Guide in 2007, and its box set of the complete Mozart string quintets, released by Lyrinx in SACD format, was named a "Critic's Choice 2003" by the American Record Guide. Special recognition was given for the Quartet's commitment to contemporary music: a 2003-2004 national CMA/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, given jointly by Chamber Music America and the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers.
- Joseph Stepansky (1946–1954)
- Abram Loft (1954–1979)
- Lawrence Shapiro (1979–1983)
- Efim Boico (1983-current)
- Sheppard Lehnhoff (1946–1952)
- Irving Ilmer (1952–1963)
- Gerald Stanick (1963–1968)
- Bernard Zaslav (1968–1980)
- Jerry Horner (1980–2000)
- Michael Strauss (2000–2001)
- Yuri Gandelsman (2001–2008)
- Chauncey Patterson (2008–2009)
- Nicolò Eugelmi (2009-current)