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The Fine Arts Quartet At Wfmt


Release Date: 01/25/2005 
Label:  Music & Arts Programs Of America Catalog #: 1154   Spars Code: AAD 
Composer:  Ludwig van BeethovenFranz Joseph HaydnWolfgang Amadeus MozartJohannes Brahms,   ... 
Performer:  Bernard ZaslavGeorge SopkinLeonard SorkinAbram Loft,   ... 
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fine Arts String Quartet
Number of Discs: 8 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Here is a real treat, especially for those who remember fondly the many outstanding broadcast and recorded performances of this distinguished American ensemble, the Fine Arts Quartet. Even for those too young to remember, here is a cornucopia of chamber music riches in mostly good to excellent performances, packed into an eight-CD box that is being sold for the price of six. Add to that four works that are rarely heard (Karel Husa, Seymour Shifrin, Hindemith, and Jean Martinon), and how can one go wrong?

Briefly, the FAQ was founded in the early 1940s by a group of Chicago-based musicians. But WW II interrupted their plans. It wasn’t until 1946 that the group started up again in earnest with Leonard Sorkin and Joseph
Read more Stepansky, violins, Shephard Lehnhoff, viola, and George Sopkin, cello. For the next eight years, weekly performances of the quartet were broadcast by ABC studios in Chicago. In 1952, Lehnhoff was replaced by violist Irving Ilmer. Then, in 1954, the group’s contract with ABC was terminated, and live broadcasts ceased. It was at this juncture that second violinist Stepansky called it quits, and was replaced by Abram Loft. For the next 10 years, the quartet freelanced, touring throughout the US, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and the Far East, establishing itself as one of the leading ensembles of the day. In 1963, Ilmer left the group to be replaced by Gerald Stanick. He, in turn, resigned in 1968, to be replaced by Bernard Zaslav. Finally, in 1979, both Sopkin and Loft turned in their badges, and the Fine Arts Quartet was no more. The recordings in this collection were taped during live broadcasts over WFMT in Chicago between 1967 and 1973, and, as claimed by Music & Arts, are all previously unreleased recordings, though in one or two instances, I have my doubts. As you can see from the preceding chronology, these were years of change for the ensemble, which explains why the personnel does not remain consistent throughout the above headnote listings.

I suppose I retain a certain fondness for the FAQ, since some of the first LP recordings of Haydn quartets I can recall listening to were with this ensemble on a label I am almost certain was called Concert-Disc. The recordings themselves, if memory serves, were not very good, but the playing was, and it introduced me to amazing music I had not previously known. Nostalgia aside, however, I am not going to make the claim that the FAQ was the greatest string quartet of its time, or that these rescued performances are competitive with the best of today. But when you consider the wealth of material on these eight CDs and the bargain price, it’s a proposition hard to resist.

In a nutshell, here are the pluses and minuses. The ensemble is well integrated, and plays with an exceptionally sweet, smooth tone. I find this works better in the Mozart quartets than it does in the Beethoven. The latter wants more sharply defined contours and more risk taking. Tempos throughout are on the cautious side, and I’d be less than forthcoming if I failed to note that intonation is sometimes (no, a lot of times) really quite off. Slow movements, on the other hand, are spun out with great depth of feeling, but without resorting to exaggeration or Romantic excess.

The Brahms quartet is a bit over the top in its effusive pushing and pulling about, but technically, the FAQ manage to avoid the many pitfalls posed by this work. Again, tempos tend to be a bit too languorous for my taste.

Czech composer Karel Husa’s String Quartet No. 3, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1969, is an extremely modern piece, but one with clear links, I think, to Bartók. The grinding dissonances, driving rhythms, snap-string pizzicato, and insect sounds are all very much part and parcel of Bartók’s sound world in his own six string quartets. This is one of the recordings, however, about which I am suspicious. Is this the same performance that appears with Husa’s String Quartet No. 2 and Evocations de Slovaquie on a Phoenix USA CD? If so, Music & Arts’s claim to never-before-released recordings is slightly misleading. Likewise, the Seymour Shifrin String Quartet No. 4, which is available on another Music & Arts single CD, coupled with the composer’s Pieces for Orchestra and Serenade. I suppose it’s possible that the FAQ made commercial recordings of these works outside of the broadcast studio performances documented here. I simply don’t know.

Perhaps it is just nostalgia after all, but I can’t help feeling that the FAQ’s strongest forte is in Haydn. They seem to capture that element of fun and jocularity in the music that eludes even some of the most note-perfect performances. Haydn’s quartets are in some ways the perfect fusion of the medium and the message; and in them there is such inexpressible, life-affirming joy. It is here, more than anywhere else in this grand assembly of great works that the Fine Arts Quartet seems to be at home.

Warmly recommended to all those who have fond memories of this group, as well as to those who are looking for an economical way to begin building a library of great chamber music.

Jerry Dubins, FANFARE
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Works on This Recording

1. Quartet for Strings no 7 in F major, Op. 59 no 1 "Razumovsky" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Bernard Zaslav (Viola), George Sopkin (Cello), Leonard Sorkin (Violin),
Abram Loft (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fine Arts String Quartet
Written: 1805-6 
Date of Recording: 10/1969 
Venue:  Live  WFMT, Chicago, Illinois 
Length: 40 Minutes 37 Secs. 
2. Quartet for Strings no 8 in E minor, Op. 59 no 2 "Razumovsky" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Bernard Zaslav (Viola), Leonard Sorkin (Violin), Abram Loft (Violin),
George Sopkin (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fine Arts String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: 1805-1806; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 10/1969 
Venue:  Live  WFMT, Chicago, Illinois 
Length: 31 Minutes 33 Secs. 
3. Quartet for Strings no 9 in C major, Op. 59 no 3 "Razumovsky" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Leonard Sorkin (Violin), Gerald Stanick (Viola), Abram Loft (Violin),
George Sopkin (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fine Arts String Quartet
Written: 1805/6 
Date of Recording: 01/1967 
Venue:  Live  WFMT, Chicago, Illinois 
Length: 28 Minutes 2 Secs. 
4. Quartet for Strings no 15 in A minor, Op. 132 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Leonard Sorkin (Violin), Abram Loft (Violin), George Sopkin (Cello),
Gerald Stanick (Viola)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fine Arts String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: 1825; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/1967 
Venue:  Live  WFMT, Chicago, Illinois 
Length: 38 Minutes 52 Secs. 
5. Quartet for Strings in E flat major, Op. 1 no "0"/H 2 no 6 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  George Sopkin (Cello), Bernard Zaslav (Viola), Abram Loft (Violin),
Leonard Sorkin (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fine Arts String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: circa 1757-1759; Austria 
Venue:  Live  WFMT, Chicago, Illinois 
Length: 16 Minutes 3 Secs. 
Notes: WFMT, Chicago, Illinois (1968 - 1973) 
6. Quartet for Strings in D major, Op. 2 no 5/H 3 no 11 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  George Sopkin (Cello), Bernard Zaslav (Viola), Abram Loft (Violin),
Leonard Sorkin (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fine Arts String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: 1766; Austria 
Venue:  Live  WFMT, Chicago, Illinois 
Length: 13 Minutes 5 Secs. 
Notes: WFMT, Chicago, Illinois (1968 - 1973) 
7. Quartet for Strings in B flat major, Op. 2 no 6/H 3 no 12 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  George Sopkin (Cello), Bernard Zaslav (Viola), Abram Loft (Violin),
Leonard Sorkin (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fine Arts String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1762; Austria 
Venue:  Live  WFMT, Chicago, Illinois 
Length: 17 Minutes 37 Secs. 
Notes: WFMT, Chicago, Illinois (1968 - 1973) 
8. Quartet for Strings in F minor, Op. 20 no 5/H 3 no 35 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  Abram Loft (Violin), Leonard Sorkin (Violin), George Sopkin (Cello),
Bernard Zaslav (Viola)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fine Arts String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: 1772; Eszterhazá, Hungary 
Venue:  Live  WFMT, Chicago, Illinois 
Length: 18 Minutes 59 Secs. 
Notes: WFMT, Chicago, Illinois (1968 - 1973) 
9. Quartet for Strings in E flat major, Op. 64 no 6/H 3 no 64 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  George Sopkin (Cello), Bernard Zaslav (Viola), Abram Loft (Violin),
Leonard Sorkin (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fine Arts String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: 1790; Eszterhazá, Hungary 
Venue:  Live  WFMT, Chicago, Illinois 
Length: 16 Minutes 33 Secs. 
Notes: WFMT, Chicago, Illinois (1968 - 1973) 
10. Quartet for Strings in B flat major, Op. 76 no 4/H 3 no 78 "Sunrise" by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  George Sopkin (Cello), Bernard Zaslav (Viola), Abram Loft (Violin),
Leonard Sorkin (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fine Arts String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: 1797; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  Live  WFMT, Chicago, Illinois 
Length: 20 Minutes 6 Secs. 
Notes: WFMT, Chicago, Illinois (1968 - 1973) 
11. Quartet for Strings in E flat major, Op. 76 no 6/H 3 no 80 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  George Sopkin (Cello), Bernard Zaslav (Viola), Abram Loft (Violin),
Leonard Sorkin (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fine Arts String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: 1797; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  Live  WFMT, Chicago, Illinois 
Length: 21 Minutes 19 Secs. 
Notes: WFMT, Chicago, Illinois (1968 - 1973) 
12. Quartet for Strings no 17 in B flat major, K 458 "Hunt" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  George Sopkin (Cello), Bernard Zaslav (Viola), Abram Loft (Violin),
Leonard Sorkin (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fine Arts String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: 1784; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  Live  WFMT, Chicago, Illinois 
Length: 22 Minutes 23 Secs. 
Notes: WFMT, Chicago, Illinois (1968 - 1973) 
13. Quartet for Strings no 20 in D major, K 499 "Hoffmeister" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  George Sopkin (Cello), Gerald Stanick (Viola), Abram Loft (Violin),
Leonard Sorkin (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fine Arts String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: 1786; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/1967 
Venue:  Live  WFMT, Chicago, Illinois 
Length: 22 Minutes 32 Secs. 
14. Quartet for Piano and Strings no 2 in E flat major, K 493 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  John Browning (Piano), George Sopkin (Cello), Abram Loft (Violin),
Leonard Sorkin (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fine Arts String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: 1786; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/17/1967 
Venue:  Live  WFMT, Chicago, Illinois 
Length: 25 Minutes 27 Secs. 
15. Adagio and Fugue for Strings in C minor, K 546 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  George Sopkin (Cello), Gerald Stanick (Viola), Abram Loft (Violin),
Leonard Sorkin (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fine Arts String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: 1788; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/1967 
Venue:  Live  WFMT, Chicago, Illinois 
Length: 7 Minutes 21 Secs. 
16. Quartet for Strings no 2 in A minor, Op. 51 no 2 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  George Sopkin (Cello), Gerald Stanick (Viola), Abram Loft (Violin),
Leonard Sorkin (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fine Arts String Quartet
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1865-1873; Austria 
Date of Recording: 1967 
Venue:  Live  WFMT, Chicago, Illinois 
Length: 30 Minutes 5 Secs. 
17. Quartet for Strings no 3 by Karel Husa
Performer:  George Sopkin (Cello), Bernard Zaslav (Viola), Abram Loft (Violin),
Leonard Sorkin (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fine Arts String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1968; USA 
Venue:  Live  WFMT, Chicago, Illinois 
Length: 21 Minutes 9 Secs. 
Notes: WFMT, Chicago, Illinois (1969 - 1973) 
18. Quartet for Strings no 4 by Seymour Shifrin
Performer:  George Sopkin (Cello), Bernard Zaslav (Viola), Abram Loft (Violin),
Leonard Sorkin (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fine Arts String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1966-1967; USA 
Date of Recording: 04/1969 
Venue:  Live  WFMT, Chicago, Illinois 
Length: 20 Minutes 58 Secs. 
19. Quartet for Strings no 1 in F major, Op. 18 no 1 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  George Sopkin (Cello), Leonard Sorkin (Violin), Abram Loft (Violin),
Bernard Zaslav (Viola)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fine Arts String Quartet
Written: 1798/1800 
Date of Recording: 01/1971 
Venue:  Live  WFMT, Chicago, Illinois 
Length: 29 Minutes 12 Secs. 
20. Trio for Horn, Violin and Piano in E flat major, Op. 40 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Naomi Zaslav (Piano), Barry Tuckwell (French Horn), Leonard Sorkin (Violin)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1865; Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/1971 
Venue:  Live  WFMT, Chicago, Illinois 
Length: 28 Minutes 38 Secs. 
21. Quintet for Horn, Violin, 2 Violas and Cello in E flat major, K 407 (386c) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Barry Tuckwell (French Horn), Abram Loft (Violin), Leonard Sorkin (Violin),
Bernard Zaslav (Viola), George Sopkin (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fine Arts String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: 1782; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/1971 
Venue:  Live  WFMT, Chicago, Illinois 
Length: 17 Minutes 9 Secs. 
22. Quartet for Strings no 3, Sz 85 by Béla Bartók
Performer:  Abram Loft (Violin), Gerald Stanick (Viola), George Sopkin (Cello),
Leonard Sorkin (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fine Arts String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1927; Budapest, Hungary 
Date of Recording: 1967 
Venue:  Live  WFMT, Chicago, Illinois 
Length: 17 Minutes 1 Secs. 
23. Quartet for Strings no 2, Op. 54 by Jean Martinon
Performer:  Leonard Sorkin (Violin), Abram Loft (Violin), George Sopkin (Cello),
Gerald Stanick (Viola)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fine Arts String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1966; France 
Venue:  Live  WFMT, Chicago, Illinois 
Length: 25 Minutes 46 Secs. 
Notes: WFMT, Chicago, Illinois (02/20/1967 - 02/21/1967) 
24. Quartet for Strings [no 4], Op. 22 by Paul Hindemith
Performer:  George Sopkin (Cello), Gerald Stanick (Viola), Abram Loft (Violin),
Leonard Sorkin (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fine Arts String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1921; Germany 
Date of Recording: 01/1967 
Venue:  Live  WFMT, Chicago, Illinois 
Length: 23 Minutes 20 Secs. 

Sound Samples

String Quartet No. 7 in F major, Op. 59, No. 1, "Rasumovsky": I. Allegro
String Quartet No. 7 in F major, Op. 59, No. 1, "Rasumovsky": II. Allegretto vivace e sempre scherzando
String Quartet No. 7 in F major, Op. 59, No. 1, "Rasumovsky": III. Adagio molto e mesto
String Quartet No. 7 in F major, Op. 59, No. 1, "Rasumovsky": IV. Theme russe: Allegro
String Quartet No. 8 in E minor, Op. 59, No. 2, "Rasumovsky": I. Allegro
String Quartet No. 8 in E minor, Op. 59, No. 2, "Rasumovsky": II. Molto adagio: Si tratta questo pezzo con molto di sentimento
String Quartet No. 8 in E minor, Op. 59, No. 2, "Rasumovsky": III. Allegretto
String Quartet No. 8 in E minor, Op. 59, No. 2, "Rasumovsky": IV. Presto
String Quartet No. 9 in C major, Op. 59, No. 3, "Rasumovsky": I. Introduzione: Andante con moto - Allegro vivace
String Quartet No. 9 in C major, Op. 59, No. 3, "Rasumovsky": II. Andante con moto quasi allegretto
String Quartet No. 9 in C major, Op. 59, No. 3, "Rasumovsky": III. Menuetto: Grazioso
String Quartet No. 9 in C major, Op. 59, No. 3, "Rasumovsky": IV. Allegro molto
String Quartet No. 15 in A minor, Op. 132: I. Assai sostenuto - Allegro
String Quartet No. 15 in A minor, Op. 132: II. Allegro ma non tanto
String Quartet No. 15 in A minor, Op. 132: III. Heiliger Dankgesang eines Genesenden an die Gottheit, in der lydischen Tonart: Molto adagio - Andante
String Quartet No. 15 in A minor, Op. 132: IV. Alla marcia, assai vivace - Piu allegro
String Quartet No. 15 in A minor, Op. 132: V. Allegro appassionato

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