Like a Great String Quartet

The New York Chamber Soloists, whether in their programs of Three Quintets, Six Sextets, or Three Septets, or as the New York Chamber Soloists Orchestra are like a great string quartet — performing and interacting as one creative entity.  Just recently in programs of the five Mozart violin concertos with Rachel Barton Pine, or Mozart and Beethoven piano concertos with Anton Kuerti, the Chamber Soloists was called “a national treasure” by the St. Augustine Record.

You can watch the Beethoven septet, from a performance at the Casals Festival a year ago online at:

Just think — for a comparable fee to what you have to pay for one of the great string quartets today, a number of these programs are available to you — a very different cup of tea for your audience.

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The New Orford String Quartet on a Cool, Grey Evening

This past Saturday I had the pleasure of hearing the New Orford String Quartet once again, this time playing Debussy at the Killington Festival here in Vermont.  It was a cool, grey evening with heavy rain, but they still had a full house, and the Quartet played just marvelously.  I count my blessings every day for having gotten involved with perhaps the most unique string quartet that I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing.  These four giants of symphonic music (concertmasters, principal viola, and principal cello of the Montreal and Toronto Symphonies) have taken on with extraordinary passion, musicality, and technical perfection the most rewarding music that every composer dreamed of writing—string quartets.  Whenever you have the opportunity, I urge you to go hear them—you’ll see what I mean. 

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It seems that Poland has come full circle in my life. My mother was born in Poland in 1901 and came to the United States when she was seven years old, I had the pleasure of performing in Poland with the New York Chamber Soloists in 1968 for the State Department (performances took place in Gdansk (formerly Danzig), Bydgoszcz (formerly Bromberg) and Warsaw), and I now have the pleasure of representing the Meccorre Quartet from Poland who is one of the most exceptional young string quartets to emerge from Europe in many years.

Having represented quartets from all over the world for more than forty years, nothing could please me more than hearing the extraordinary Meccorre Quartet two summers ago at the Borciani Competition, where—without question—they were the best of the twenty-six quartets there. At my invitation, they are coming to the United States for the first time from November 1 – 17, 2013, and you can see and hear them online at

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The Hermitage Piano Trio

I just came back from Seattle where I heard Misha Keylin perform with the Seattle Symphony Mozart’s Concerto No. 2 in D Major Concerto and Vieuxtemps’ 5th Concerto.  Misha is, of course, renowned for having recorded the entire Vieuxtemps oeuvre for violin and orchestra, and has received accolades in that regard from all over the world.

I’m familiar with Misha because he performs as part of the Hermitage Piano Trio. I had never heard him play solo violin, and was extraordinarily impressed by his performance of those two concertos.  The audience cheered, and gave him a standing ovation.

Considering all of the aspects of what makes a trio work, it’s pretty impressive to me that the Hermitage consists of three terrific soloists.  I couldn’t have said that before hearing Misha before this last weekend, but he, together with Sergey Antonov, the prize-winning cellist of the Tchaikovsky Competition two years ago, and the renowned Russian pianist Maxim Mogilevsky offer one of the more exeptional trio performances in the world today.  Just think—three Russian bears on stage at the same time!

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“As many years as there are keys on the piano….”

Menahem Pressler continues to amaze me.  I spoke with him this morning before he leaves for three weeks in France and Switzerland to judge a competition, give a number of master classes, and play a variety of recitals.

I often think of a line from the extraordinary review that he received in St. Paul, Minnesota, when he appeared there for the Schubert Club a couple of months ago: “Menahem Pressler has lived as many years as there are keys on a piano.”  The sense of wonderment that Menahem still has at music, making music, performing for people, meeting new people, having new experiences, has to be the real fountain of life.  My hat is off to him!

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The New York Chamber Soloists Orchestra

I think that one of the things that has given me more pleasure, musically, than anything I’ve done in the last twenty-five years, has been the performances that we’ve done under the name The New York Chamber Soloists Orchestra with such soloists as Menahem Pressler, Richard Stoltzman, and Rachel Barton Pine.  There are more in the works, as we anticipate in the next several years to also do performances together with the renowned Canadian pianist Anton Kuerti and the brilliant guitarist Sharon Isbin.

A few weeks ago, we performed three completely different programs that included such diverse works as Rossini’s Introduction and Variations for clarinet and orchestra, Bach’s double concerto, the Beethoven Romances featuring my wonderful colleague Curtis Macomber, Copland’s Appalachian Spring, Mozart’s 29th and 33rd symphonies, his G Major violin concerto, the piano concerto K. 595, and the Clarinet Concerto.  There aren’t many musicians that I know of in the world, in an ensemble of that size, with nobody conducting, could perform as well as my colleagues did – an extraordinary pleasure.

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The Winograds

When I was a student at Juilliard, I had the good fortune to attend the premiere performances by the Juilliard Quartet at Town Hall of the six Bartok quartets. As you can imagine, that was a landmark musical event in this country – in fact, in the world. At that time, Bobby Mann, Robert Koff, and Raphael Hillyer were members of the Quartet. Their cellist was Arthur Winograd. Interestingly, as their lives developed, Arthur began a conducting career, and I had the pleasure of playing oboe for him, both in recordings and in concerts in New York. I don’t know how many of you reading this will remember Arthur Winograd, but of course he was a great cellist, and it is particularly pleasurable to me to have represented the American String Quartet for the past fifteen years, whose first violinist is Arthur’s son, Peter. In a way, it’s not unusual in the music world, which is a very small world, to have that kind of interconnection between families and friends, and I hope that any of you reading this have the opportunity to hear the wonderful violin playing of Peter with his American String Quartet.

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