Philharmonic Piano Quartet

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The Philharmonic Piano Quartet was a New York-based ensemble of four pianists active from 1948 until the mid-1950s. Despite their name, the ensemble had no connection with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. They toured throughout the United States and made two recordings for the Columbia Masterworks label.


The quartet was formed in 1948 when they made the first of their several tours of the United States under the sponsorship of Columbia Artists Management. They made their official New York City debut in a concert at Lewisohn Stadium on June 25, 1949. The ensemble also appeared in syndicated radio broadcasts of ABC's Piano Playhouse and made two LP recordings for the Columbia Masterworks label in 1949 and 1950.[1][2][3][4][5]

All four of the original members, Ada Kopetz, Bertha Melnik, Max Walmer, and John Scales, were trained at the Juilliard School, two of them under Alexander Siloti. By the mid-1950s the original quartet had been replaced by Gisela Richter, Moreland Kortkamp, Emmett Vokes and Herbert Rogers, all of whom were likewise graduates of Juilliard.[6]

Although classical music predominated in their repertoire, they also included pieces from musical theatre and folk music in their performances and recordings. Their music was arranged for four pianos by the German-born composer and conductor Moritz von Bomhard.[7]


Founding members[edit]

  • Ada Kopetz (also known after her marriage as Ada Kopetz-Korf) (born 1920) was born in New York City. She studied with James Friskin at Juilliard and later with Eduard Steuermann in California. During World War II she gave many hospital concerts sponsored by the USO and after the war appeared as a soloist with the New York City Symphony. In later years she often performed as an accompanist and taught piano at both the Manhattan School of Music and Columbia University.[8][9]
  • Bertha Melnik (1914–2013) was born in Hartford, Connecticut and attended the Juilliard Graduate School from 1934 to 1939, where she studied piano with Alexander Siloti. She later studied with Robert Casadesus at the American Conservatory in Fontainebleau. In 1968 she was the pianist and assistant conductor for the original New York production of Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. In her later years Melnik worked primarily as an accompanist and vocal coach and taught at both Juilliard and the Manhattan School of Music. She died in 2013 at the age of 99.[8][10]
  • Max Walmer (born 1917) was born in Lucas, Kansas and graduated in music from Bethany College. In 1938 he was awarded a graduate fellowship in piano at Juilliard where he studied under Alexander Siloti and Rosina Lhévinne. Prior to joining the quartet, he had an active career as an accompanist in vocal recitals and also toured the United States as the pianist for the Nine O'Clock Opera Company. He continued to work as an accompanist and vocal coach after leaving the quartet. Among the singers he worked with was Giorgio Tozzi whom he prepared for his role debut as Hans Sachs in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. Walmer was also the choral director for the 1963 Broadway premiere of Luther and composed a De Profundis for the production.[11][8][12][13]
  • John Grover Scales (1923–1953), the youngest member of the quartet, was born in Grove, Oklahoma, the son of a Baptist minister. After graduating in music from Oklahoma Baptist University, he studied at Juilliard and Columbia University where he received his master's degree shortly before joining the quartet. Scales died in 1953. The John Grover Scales Memorial Scholarship at Oklahoma Baptist University was established in his honor.[14][15]

Later members[edit]



  1. ^ New York Times (27 June 1949). "Piano Unit Makes Debut at Stadium", p. 19. Retrieved 7 March 2018.
  2. ^ New York Times (26 March 1950). "Radio Concerts of the Week", p. 105. Retrieved 7 March 2018.
  3. ^ New York Times (9 July 1950). "Radio Concerts", p. 9. Retrieved 7 March 2018 (subscription required).
  4. ^ a b Schloss, Edwin H. (16 October 1949). "Recorded Music: Chopin Recital on a Platter", p. 212. The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 7 March 2018.
  5. ^ a b Billboard (23 Dec 1950). "Album and LP Reviews: Popular Classics for Four Pianos", p. 70. Retrieved 7 March 2018.
  6. ^ Dame, Lawrence (21 February 1956). "Piano Quartet Provides Fine Entertainment", p. 2. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Retrieved 7 March 2018.
  7. ^ The Gould Blue and Gold (28 April 1948). "Gould Students Attend Philharmonic Piano Quartet", Vol. 6, No. 7, p. 1. Gould Academy. Retrieved 7 March 2018.
  8. ^ a b c Nashua Telegraph (6 April 1949). "Piano Quartet in Final Community Concert", p. 7. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  9. ^ Musicians Club of New York (2018). "Ada Kopetz-Korf". Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  10. ^ Berman. Greta (October 2013). "Bertha Melnik 1914-2013". Juilliard Journal. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  11. ^ New York Times (8 October 1938). "Juilliard Awards Go to 64 Musicians", p. 9. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  12. ^ Playbill. "Playbill Vault: Max Walmer". Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  13. ^ Tozzi, Giorgio (10 March 2017). "Backache, Barber and Bing". he Jussi Björling Society. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  14. ^ Joplin Globe (26 January 1939). "Former Commerce Boy in Music Tour", p. 12. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  15. ^ Oklahoma Baptist University (9 May 2013). "Music Students Receive Awards, Scholarships". Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  16. ^ New York Times (4 September 1952)"Gisela M. Richter is Wed; Graduate of Juilliard is Bride of Robert Emmett Vokes Jr.". p. 31. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  17. ^ a b The Paris News (6 December 1955). "Community Concert Season to Open Friday", p. 10. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  18. ^ Amarillo Globe-News (18 October 2005). "Former symphony conductor Roller dies". Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  19. ^ The Courier-News (26 May 1952). "Vokes Wins Top Award In Juilliard Class", p. 16. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  20. ^ Downes, Edward (12 January 1958). "Vokes Makes Debut in a Piano Recital", p. 73. New York Times. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  21. ^ Ericson, Raymond (19 March 1961). "Recital Offered by Emmett Vokes" p. 85. New York Times. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  22. ^ Emmett Vokes, Visiting Assistant Professor of Applied Music. St. Mary's University: Faculty. Retrieved 2019-01-25.
  23. ^ CRI (1970). Liner Notes: Herbert Rogers, piano: Cowell, Sessions, Lybbert, Talma. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  24. ^ New York Times (2 February 1983). "Herbert Rogers, 53, Pianist". Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  25. ^ OCLC 56606604
  26. ^ OCLC 11738428

Further reading[edit]

  • Rogers, Herbert (1952). "Saga of Four Men and Truck". Music Clubs Magazine, Vol. 32, pp. 7–9