Audubon Quartet turns 25
By Sally Harris
Spectrum Volume 21 Issue 15 - December 10, 1998
In the 25 years since its formation in 1974, the Audubon Quartet has accomplished many things--being invited to tour China in 1982, being invited by President Jimmy Carter to play at the White House, and being the first American string quartet to win prizes in international string-quartet competitions.
As it approaches its 25th anniversary, the group continues to receive accolades. In 1997, the quartet welcomed new member Akemi Takayama, produced a CD of its music, and received a special award from Chamber Music America (CMA) under the auspices of the National Endowment for the Arts.
The CMA award provides intensive technical support from CMA in developing and implementing performance-based projects and funds to support their work during the 1998-1999 season. The award is enabling the Audubon Quartet to tour the country presenting a program of music composed and performed in Terezin, the concentration camp near Prague that imprisoned some of Europe's most creative composers and musicians. In an emotionally charged concert, the group also presents artwork and poetry written by children and adults interned at Terezin. The Audubon Quartet started presenting the program in July and will continue through June 1999.
"With two of our quartet members being children of Holocaust survivors, we became involved with the music from Terezin when it was discovered that our violist's father been a key figure in the musical life of Terezin," said Tom Shaw, one of the founders of the quartet. "He was one of the camp's most important musicians who not only performed, but organized many of its public musical events from 1941-1944." Also, the group's first violinist, David Ehrlich, is the child of Russian camp survivors.
The survivors of Terezin "passed down a great musical tradition to their children and students," Shaw said. Many of the composers who composed and performed in Terezin died there. "All that is left of these composers, well known in their time and some destined for greatness is their music," Shaw said. "We can bring them back to life by performing their music and telling their stories." The program is "designed to revive awareness of the music created in Terezin and the social and political issues involved," according to Chamber Music.
Traveling with the Audubon quartet is new violinist Akemi Takayama, who holds degrees from the Cleveland Institute of Music and the Toho School of Music in Japan. She is a former member of the Larami String Quartet, which received a special invitation to participate in the Isaac Stern Chamber Music Workshop at Carnegie Hall. She also performed with many of the world's greatest artists at the Marlboro Chamber Music Festival in Vermont.
The Audubon Quartet also has a new musical recording to offer its followers. The group recorded Zoltán Kodály: String Quartet No. 1, Op. 2; String Quartet No. 2, Op. 1 in February, and a Fanfare Magazine reviewer named it "first choice among recordings of this music." American Record Guide called it "a rewarding experience."