The Alard Quartet[i] was an American string quartet active from 1954 to 1994. Formed at the Juilliard School of Music in 1954 under the direction of Hans Letz, the original members were Seymour Wakschal and Donald Hopkins, violins, Arnold Magnes, viola, and Jorge Sicre, cello.
An early success was winning the National Federation of Music Clubs Young Artist Competition[ii] [iii], which awarded them a debut concert in New York’s Town Hall and a performance with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Reviewing the 1956 Town Hall concert for the New York Herald Tribune, Jay Harrison wrote that the Alard Quartet was “young, fresh, talented, professional.”[iv]
Throughout its career, the Quartet enjoyed a continuous series of residencies at academic institutions. The first was as graduate students at the University of Texas[v], and continuing with residencies at Wilmington College[vi] in Ohio, the State University of New York at Potsdam, the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand[vii], and, finally, from 1962 to 1988, at Penn State University[viii].
During the time at Wilmington College, a number of personnel changes occurred, culminating in 1960 when Joanne Zagst Feldman joined the Quartet. At this point, the lineup was Donald Hopkins, 1st violin, Joanne Zagst, 2nd violin, Raymond Page, viola, and Leonard Feldman, cello. This foursome stayed together for the rest of the Quartet’s career. In 1970, the two violinists switched chairs.
From 1965 to 1994 the Quartet was represented by Raymond Weiss Artist Management. Over the length of their career, theyaveraged about 30 concerts per year, including those given as part of the residencies. The Quartet had an extensive repertoire, consisting of well over 100 string quartets, including a significant number by contemporary American composers, such as Ezra Laderman[ix], Vincent Persichetti[x], Ralph Shapey[xi], and others. They concertized extensively in the east and southeast of the US, as well as in other parts of the country and in Canada. Several concerts in the New York City area attracted favorable reviews. Raymond Erickson of the New York Times wrote about the 1967 Town Hall concert, that the concert was “played by four admirably balanced instrumentalists, who brought vitality, cohesion, and solid musicianship to the readings.” [xii] Between 1961 and 1973 The Alard performed five times at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC as part of the American Music Festival.[xiii] [xiv] [xv] [xvi] [xvii]
For 24 years the Quartet presented a summer Chamber Music Workshop at Penn State, attracting amateur players from around the United States.
The Quartet toured New Zealand in 1964, Europe in 1969 and 1980, and Mexico in 1961, the last being under the auspices of the US Information Agency (formerly called the US Information Service). These concerts were in large cities, such as Monterrey, Mexico City, San Luis Potosi, Merida, Vera Cruz, Guadalajara, and in small towns and villages, some of which had never before been visited by a classical group.
In July 1988 Ray Page retired from the University, but the Alard Quartet continued playing a limited number of concerts independent of the University. The Feldmans retired from Penn State in 1990. Donald continued to teach at PSU until his retirement in 1997 and retired as an Associate Professor Emeritus.
Seymour Wakschal (1931-1996)
Constantine (Conny) Kiradjieff
Joanne Zagst Feldman
Joanne Zagst Feldman
National Federation of Music Clubs Young Artists’ Competition, 1955
Case, James, Monograph for String Quartet. World Premiere at National
Gallery of Art, April 28, 1968
Labunski, Felix (1892-1979), String Quartet #2; 08 May 1962, New Music Series, Taft Museum, Cincinnati, Ohio
Laderman, Ezra (1924-2015), (1). String Quartet #8, Rice University, Houston TX, 16 Sept. 1986 2). Concerto for String Quartet & Orchestra (1979-80)
Performed with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, 6-8 Feb 1981
Performed with the Denver Symphony Orchestra, May 1983
Overton, Hall (1920-1972), String Quartet #3; 14 Nov. 1967, Carnegie Recital Hall, NYC
Persichetti, Vincent (1915-1987), String Quartet #4, Op 122, subtitled Parable X (1972). Commissioned by the Institute for Arts & Humanistic Studies at Penn State University for the Alard String Quartet. 28 Feb. 1973.
Shapey, Ralph (1921-2002), Quartet for Oboe, Violin, Viola, & Cello, 3 Nov 1983
Washburn, Dr. Robert B. (1928-2013), Quartet; 3 April 1963; SUNY Potsdam NY
Willis, Richard M. (1929-1997), Third String Quartet, commissioned in honor of the Alard String Quartet’s 30th Anniversary. 12 Mar 1986.
Alard, presented by WPSX-TV, University Park PA in 1981.
The Alard Quartet; Hindemith, String Quartet, Opus 22; Janacek, String Quartet. Golden Crest CRS 4184
Music for Flute and Strings by Three Americans: Amy Beach (1867-1944), Theme & Variations, Opus 80; Katherine Hoover (1937- ), Divertimento; Arthur Foote (1853-1937), A Night Piece. Diane Gold, flute & The Alard String Quartet & Diane Gold, flute. Leonarda LPI 105.
String Quartets: Karel Husa, String Quartet No. 1 (1948); Priauix Rainier, Quartet for Strings (1939). Leonarda LPI 117.
Bela Bartok, Quintet for Piano & Strings. Sylvia Glickman, Piano & The Alard Quartet. Leonarda LPI 108.
The Alard Quartet, Ezra Laderman, String Quartet No. 5; Charles T. Griffes, Two Sketches on Indian Themes. Golden Crest CA-4235
The Romantic Approach: A Special Collection of 20th Century American Music. Various artists, including the Alard String Quartet; Foote, A Night Piece. Leonarda LE 336
Swack, Irwin: String Quartet No. 3, Etc.;Lifchitz: Yellow Ribbons. Opus One CD 149
[i] Wechsberg, Joseph (1973) The Glory of the Violin. New York, New York: The Viking Press. Page 287
[iii] Ireland, Edward (28 April 1955). Music Awards go to Pianist, Quartet. The Miami News (Miami, Florida), Main Edition, Page 30.
[iv] Harrison, Jay (13 Dec. 1956), Alard Quartet Makes Debut in Recital at Town Hall. New York Herald Tribune.
[v] Free UT Concert Presents Quartet (24 Oct. 1954). The Austin-American (Austin, Texas), Page 29.
[vi] College Obtains Residence Quartet (20 Sept. 1956). The Quaker Quips (Wilmington College, Ohio).Vol. 8, No. 1, Page 1.
[vii] Brown, C.F. (25 June 1963). Impressive Playing by Alard String Quartet. The Press (Christchurch, New Zealand), Page 15.
[viii] Centre Daily Times (01 Oct. 1962). String Quartet Plans Debut on Wednesday.
[ix] Croan Robert (07 Feb. 1981). Symphony Premieres Laderman Work. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania).
[x] http://archives.nypl.org/uploads/collection/pdf_finding_aid/muspersi.pdf (Box 67, Page 50).
[xi] Rothstein, Edward (03 Nov. 1983). Music: Alard Strings. The New York Times.
[xii] Erickson, Raymond (15 Nov. 1967). Return Visit Paid by Alard Quartet. The New York Times
[xiii] Doerr, Alan (5 May 1963). String Quartet Plays American Program. The Washington Post, B10
[xiv] Farris, Robert (8 May 1961). Alard Quartet Scores Success in First of 4 Musical Events. The Washington Post, A-27.
[xv] Porter, Cecilia H. (28 April 1968). Group Plays Modern Works for a Befuddled Audience. The Washington Post.
[xvi] Crowder, Charles (25 April 1965). Music Festival Opens at National Gallery. The Washington Post. B6
[xvii] Kriegsman, Alan M. (1973). Quartet: Minor but Distinctive. The Washington Post.