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The Guarneri Legacy Lives On

The Johannes String Quartet comes to the Mary Seaton Room at Kleinhans

On Tuesday, November 15, at 8pm, the Buffalo Chamber Music Society presents a program in the Mary Seaton Room of Kleinhans Music Hall featuring the Johannes String Quartet. The collaboration of the members of the Johannes Quartet was forged in Vermont, at the Marlboro Music Festival, where they were shaped and mentored by the now recently disbanded, much-loved Guarneri String Quartet. The Guarneri Quartet was in turn influenced decades before by the now legendary Budapest String Quartet, long-time string-quartet-in-residence at the University at Buffalo, so the Johannes Quartet is continuing this rich legacy of excellence. As Arnold Steinhardt, the first violinist of the Guarneri Quartet, notes, “The Johannes String Quartet, comprised of four impressively gifted instrumentalists in their own right, have come together to form one of the great chamber music groups of our time. They play with technical polish, with deep musical understanding, and with uncommon inspiration. The Johannes is all I could ever dream of in a string quartet.”

The members of the Johannes String Quartet are Soovin Kim, the first American to win the Paganini Violin Competition in 24 years; violinist Jessica Lee, a Concert Artists Guild Competition winner; Choong-Jin Chang, the principal violist of the Philadelphia Orchestra; and Peter Stumpf, the principal cellist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Performances by the Johannes Quartet have been broadcast on NPR’s St. Paul Sunday and Performance Today, and the group recently made its well received Carnegie Hall debut. In recent seasons, the members of the Johannes Quartet have toured in collaboration with their mentors, the Guarneri Quartet, performing a work by William Bolcom, his Octet for double string quartet, written for them on a commission by the Music Accord consortium of presenters. In this spirit, Tuesday’s program will feature a newly commissioned string quartet, Homunculus, written for the Johannes by Esa-Pekka Salonen, the former music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

The program opens with Mozart’s Quartet in B-flat Major, K. 589, the second of the three “Prussian” quartets, written between 1789 and 1790, for the King of Prussia, Frederick William II. These quartets feature the cello prominently, the instrument that the king himself played, though the composer withdrew his dedication to the king, after the king failed to pay him the total amount agreed upon, and Mozart ended-up having them published at his own expense. Schubert’s Quartet in D minor, D. 810 “Death and the Maiden,” which has been described as his testament to his own approaching death, concludes the program. Schubert composed the work in 1824, after a serious bout of the illness that would ultimately take his life. This poignant work takes its title from a lied, Der Tod und das Mädchen, composed in 1817, which provides the theme for the second movement.

Tickets are $20 general admission, $10 for students. For more information, visit

Gift to the Community Series: clarinetist Narek Arutyunian

One of the benefits provided to the classical music lovers of Western New York by the Buffalo Chamber Music Society, in addition to their very long-running Tuesday evening series, is the society’s free annual, three-concert Gift to the Community series presented on Sunday afternoons. The second installment in this season’s series takes place this Sunday, November 13 at 3pm, and features the Armenian clarinetist Narek Arutyunian, accompanied by pianist Steven Beck, in a performance re-scheduled from last season due to a family death. The 18-year-old clarinetist, who won first prize in the prestigious 2010 Young Artists International Auditions competition, will perform works by Weber, Poulenc, Francaix, Horovitz, Denisov, and Schoenfield. As anyone who was at pianist Benjamin Moser’s recital last September can happily attest, the artistic quality and the musicianship of the young performers in this series generally combine for a concert experience that is hard to beat. The series has provided a venue for some of the rising stars of tomorrow, exemplified best, perhaps, by the appearance a couple of years ago of the Armenian cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan, who went on to win the coveted first prize gold medal in this year’s International Tchaikovsky Competition, and who will be making a return visit to Buffalo on May 15, in the final season concert of the Ramsi P. Tick series at the Flickinger Performing Arts Center at Nichols School.

A welcome innovation in this year’s Gift to the Community concert series is a pre-concert performance at 2:15pm by Western New York students from the Bravo Chamber Music Workshop. Based on the high level of proficiency of the very young musicians who performed prior to Moser’s recital last September, chamber music lovers will be sure to want to make it a habit to come early, for these pre-concert performances.

Admission to this event is free. For more information, visit

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