Pro Arte Quartet - Summit Avenue Music Series
The second concert in the Summit Avenue Music Series will be Sunday, March 17, 2019 at 3:00pm in the Martin Luther College Chapel of the Christ and features the Pro Arte Quartet (PAQ), described by the San Francisco Chronicle as “One of the greatest quartets of our time.” Founded by conservatory students in Brussels in 1912, the PAQ became one of the most celebrated ensembles in Europe in the first half of the twentieth century and was named Court Quartet to the Queen of Belgium. Its world reputation blossomed in 1919 when the quartet began the first of many tours that enticed notable composers such as Milhaud, Honegger, Martin, and Casella to write new works for the ensemble. In addition, Bartók dedicated his fourth quartet to the PAQ (1927), and in 1936 PAQ premiered Barber’s Op. 11 quartet, with the now-famous “Adagio for Strings” as its slow movement.
The Pro Arte made its New York debut in 1926 and toured the United States frequently under the auspices of Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge. The quartet was performing in Madison, Wisconsin in May 1940 when Nazi forces invaded Belgium. The University of Wisconsin responded to the emergency by offering the quartet a permanent campus home, the first such arrangement at a major American university. The UW Pro Arte residency became a model of artist residencies that is now widely emulated throughout the country.
As the first and only quartet ever to reach its centennial anniversary (2012), the Pro Arte’s 100th birthday was the occasion for a grand multi-year celebration. At its center was the commission of six new works by some of today’s most important composers: William Bolcom, Paul Schoenfield, John Harbison, Walter Mays, and Pierre Jalbert (United States), along with Benoît Mernier from Belgium. Other initiatives included a lecture series, museum exhibits, recordings on the Albany label, a video documentary broadcast on Wisconsin Public Television and available on DVD, a concert tour to Belgium, and an upcoming book on the storied history of this illustrious quartet.
Current PAQ members, together since 1995, are David Perry and Suzanne Beia, violin; Sally Chisholm, viola; and Parry Karp, cello. Together, they have recorded works of Mendelssohn, Dvořák, Rhodes, Shapey, Sessions, Fennelly, Diesendruck, and the centennial commissions.
This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through grants from the Prairie Lakes Regional Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and from the New Ulm Area Foundation.