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The Philharmonic String Quartet is a Friend of Vienna

The newly revived Friends of Vienna concert series continues this Sunday, January 24 at 3:30pm, with the return of the Philharmonic String Quartet to the Unity Church, 1243 Delaware Avenue. The program includes works by two giants of Viennese music, Mozart and Brahms, as well as a work by the 20th-century Russian composer Igor Stravinsky.

Violist Donna Lorenzo, an original member of the quartet who now teaches at Houghton College, returns for the first time in many years to join her fellow founding members, violinists Diana Sachs and Alan Ross. Cellist Eva Herer, who was a member of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra’s cello section for many years, will make her debut with the group at this concert, though she has appeared with the other members in different chamber ensembles.

The members of the quartet are all BPO musicians who “first started playing quartets, just for the fun of it,” according to Sachs. A well-received initial public performance lead to many others in venues that include the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Westminster Presbyterian, Parkside Lutheran, and Trinity Episcopal churches, and Temple Beth Zion’s chamber series. The quartet has also performed in the Buffalo Public Library series as well as Chamber Music on Elmwood. The quartet crossed the border to play in the Niagara International Chamber Music Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and it has appeared at the “Bravo” Chamber Music Academy summer program at Niagara University; it enjoys playing frequent concerts for young people, both in formal auditoriums and, for younger children, casual classroom settings.

Mozart spent a lot of effort from 1782 to 1785 composing the six string quartets that he dedicated to Joseph Haydn, an unusual move at the time when musical compositions were invariably dedicated to aristocratic patrons. After a performance of the final three quartets in the set, Haydn told the composer’s father Leopold that “Before God and as an honest man I tell you that your son is the greatest composer known to me either in person or by name: He has taste, and, furthermore, the most profound knowledge of composition.” High praise indeed from the man whom Mozart regarded as the greatest living composer. The quartet that Mozart composed next, the String Quartet in D Major, K.499, nicknamed the Hoffmeister Quartet, is on Sunday’s program. The origins of the work are obscure, but it may have been composed quickly to pay off a debt to Hoffmeister, who, contrary to custom, published it alone instead of including in a set of six. The “Menuetto” movement has been described by H.C Robbins Landon as “one of the most original in eighteenth century music” and by Alfred Einstein as “unique,” while the beautifully profound “Adagio” movement is one of the comparatively rare instances of Mozart’s use of the adagio tempo—he favored andante tempos.

Stravinsky composed the Concertino for String Quartet, his first work after Pulcinella, while in Brittany in 1920. He described it as having “the form of a sonata allegro with a definitely concertante part for the first violin.” While recalling the biting violin part of L’histoire du soldat, it stands at the threshold of his neoclassical period.

Brahms’ Quartet in A Minor, Op. 51 No. 2 is one of the magnificent results of the composer’s very long, self-imposed apprenticeship in the art of composing string quartets, numerous examples of which he destroyed, before presenting his handful of masterpieces to the public. An analysis of the work by the unremitting modernist Arnold Schoenberg, in his essay “Brahms the Progressive,” forcefully argues that Brahms, so often labeled as “the classicist, the academician,” was actually “a great innovator in the realm of musical language.”

Tickets are $8 general admission, $6 for students, and $1 for children under the age of 12. For more information, visit

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