Polinger Artists of Excellence Concert Series at the JCCGW, Washington, D.C.

"FINE ARTS QUARTET: LIKE WELCOMING AN OLD FRIEND. The ensemble's concert at the JCCGW was at once familiar and powerful.

The first half of the Fine Arts Quartet concert at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington on Sunday felt like settling into a pair of comfortable old slippers.

New players may replace older ones from time to time (cellist Robert Cohen and violist Juan-Miguel Hernandez joined less than two years ago), but the quartet’s well-seasoned culture has endured. Violinists Ralph Evans and Efim Boico, who have been playing together for more than 32 years, are supremely well matched. Their soft-edged tone and phrasing define a “Fine Arts” sound that Cohen has picked up and that Hernandez accommodates himself to when he isn’t lavishing his gorgeous warm sound on a particularly juicy solo phrase.

They treated Mozart’s String Quartet in A, K. 464, like an old friend — its first movement a gentle and amiable welcome, a somewhat subdued third movement Andante and a playful finale handled with a jaunty light touch. Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge, Op. 133, sounded more determined than insistent, with a steady energy that seemed to be trying to impose order on the composer’s flailing instead of reveling in it.

The second half of the program, however, brought out a passionate side of the ensemble that took on the romantic urgency of Tchaikovsky’s String Quartet No. 2, Op. 22, with an urgency of its own. The musicians’ first movement rubatoes lingered tantalizingly, long crescendos built with both power and tenderness, and the galloping finale, with its slithering chromaticisms and fugal playfulness, was a refreshing palate-cleanser. (Joan Reinthaler, Washington Post, March 9, 2015). 

Palm Beach, Florida

"FINE ARTS QUARTET THRILLS FLAGLER MUSEUM AUDIENCE...The Fine Arts Quartet is an American chamber music institution. Founded in 1946, it has achieved celebrity and commendable music integrity (sometimes, a rare combination). Despite the ensemble’s long history (its two violinists have been playing together for more than 30 years), there is nothing fossilized about their music making, as the audience of the Flagler Museum Music Series could attest on Tuesday. Presenting a program with two technically and musically demanding masterworks, the quartet impressed thanks to its beautiful sound, cohesive ensemble work and, most important, its variegated sound palette...The quartet made a strong case for the work, with a passionate rendition. Surely, the almost symphonic sound its members displayed was impressive, but equally impressive were the different colorations they were able to produce at the more intimate moments...It was played with the combination of pathos and balance only an ensemble that has been around for decades may achieve. Another highlight was the pacing of the last movement, which ended the evening in such an exciting note that the audience gave the Fine Arts Quartet four curtain calls.  (Marcio Bezerra, Palm Beach Daily News, Feb. 18, 2015) Full review

Lake District Summer Music Festival, UK

"Fine Arts String Quartet performance is technically brilliant. The first string quartet recital in this year’s Lake District Summer Music festival was given by the distinguished Fine Arts String Quartet making the ensemble’s first visit to the festival. The quartet has a distinguished record, having recorded more than 200 works, many of which have won prestigious awards. Listening to the performances at Kendal Parish Church, it was not difficult to account for this success. The playing of all four players is technically brilliant; but, more than this, they display a deep understanding of the music and communicate this to their audience. The concert opened with a late Haydn Quartet, Op77 No 2. The four players clearly revelled in the intricate counterpoint and the humorous touch...Schubert’s D minor string quartet...completed the programme. The players got to the emotional heart of the work. The opening was notable for its energy and rhythmic drive; the slow movement opening...was magical in effect, so beautifully phrased with a wide range of tone colours and dynamic contrasts. The last movement was again remarkable for its energy, rhythmic drive and forward momentum. This was string quartet playing at it finest and left one with a desire to hear this fine quartet again. (Clive Walkley, Westmoreland Gazette, 6 August 2014) Full review

Milwaukee Summer Evenings of Music Festival

"Teenage Dream. A taste of Arriaga’s brilliant potential opened an enchanting concert Sunday night by the Fine Arts Quartet at UWM’s Zelazo Hall. His third string quartet, published when he was only 16, is one of the great pleasures of 19th-century music: elegant, playful and lyrically rich...And the FAQ...played it with dazzling ease." (Paul Kosidowski, Milwaukee Magazine, June 9, 2014) Full review

Washington DC: National Gallery of Art

Efrem Zimbalist Sr. and Fritz Kreisler, friends who shared fame as among the finest violinists of the first half of the 20th century, shared something else — they both dabbled in composing and each wrote a single romantically-infused string quartet. The venerable Fine Arts Quartet, which has espoused these rarely played pieces, has recorded them and performed them widely, brought the pair to the National Gallery of Art on Sunday along with another rarity, the two movements of the youthful Rachmaninoff’s unfinished G Minor Quartet. To say that the Fine Arts has made the Zimbalist and Kreisler works its own would be an understatement. On Sunday night, the quartet inhabited the heart-on-sleeve longing of Kreisler’s overstuffed and sometimes slithery textures with a comfort that was as convincing as its cheerful abandon in the highly stylized dance of the quartet’s last movement.
(Joan Reinthaler Washington Post, February 10, 2014) Full review

Casals Festival: San Juan, Puerto Rico

PRECISO EL FINE ARTS QUARTET - DERROCHO EXPERIENCIA Y TALENTO EN CONCIERTO DOMINICAL...Una de las mayores virtudes del Festival Casals es la oportunidad de asistir a conciertos de música de cámara de óptima calidad...Todavía se recuerdan esos fantásticos conciertos de cámara con el maestro Casals al violonchelo, Isaac Stern y Alexander Schneider al violín y Mieczyslav Horszowski al piano, entre otros. La tradición continúa. Este pasado domingo se presentó en la Sala Sinfónica Pablo Casals el Fine Arts Quartet. Aunque es uno de los más antiguos cuartetos activos de Norteamérica, fundado en 1946, dos de los cuatro integrantes actuales llevan poco tiempo tocando en el grupo. Sin embargo, a juzgar por la muestra ofrecida en este recital, los miembros se han acoplado magníficamente bien. El programa comenzó con el Cuarteto de cuerdas núm. 7 en fa sostenido menor, op. 108, de Dmitri Shostakovich...El Fine Arts Quartet optó sabiamente por concentrarse en el humor sutil plasmado en la partitura, para dejar que la melancolía apareciera por sí sola, sin forzarla, como un leve eco escuchado a lo lejos. El resultado fue extraordinario...Una interesante obra [el Cuarteto en la menor del gran violinista Fritz Kreisler] cuyo inconfundible aire vienés fue subrayado por el Fine Arts Quartet con gracia y buen gusto, presentando admirablemente las melodías románticas...El finale del Quinteto en re mayor, K.593, de Mozart, figuró como encore; una joya que en las diestras manos del conjunto brilló con su genial jocosidad.
(Luis Hernández Mergal, El Nuevo Día, 25 de febrero de 2014) Full review

Hamilton, Canada

"The playing was really wonderful. I wasn't prepared for the range of articulations and dynamics, nor for the incredibly tight ensemble playing which continued throughout the recital...The Fine Arts Quartet gave a tour de force performance...I came away very impressed."
(David S Fawcett, Composer's Notebook, Sept 19, 2013) Full review

Prades, France

"[Le Fine Arts Quartet] donne une splendide version de la Sérénade italienne d’Hugo Wolf, vibrante, légère et rapide, à l’équilibre idéal...La qualité d’exécution est au dessus du lot, avec un Ralph Evans en forme étincelante, dont l’archet vole sur l’instrument, et des partenaires qui font de même...Le Fine Arts Quartet joue ces pages (Herrmann) avec une implication irréprochable, faisant une démonstration de légèreté et de finesse de timbre" 
(Richard Letawe, ClassiqueInfo.com, 6 août 2013)

Montreal, Canada

"Last night, the audience was treated to the incomparable playing of the Fine Arts Quartet whose gifted musicality and technical expertise ably took on works by Saint-Saëns...remarkable sensitivities exerted passionately by the Fine Arts Quartet...Bravo to the members of the Fine Arts Quartet whose impeccable phrasing, timing and unbeatable interpretation of each piece vividly expressed all the miniscule and big moments of musical nuances residing in Saint-Saëns creative imagination."
(Nancy Snipper, Arts and Opinions, Vol.12, No.2, May 2013) Full review

Naples, Italy

"La rassegna “Amalfi Coast Music & Arts Festival” riporta a Napoli lo straordinario Fine Arts Quartet...che si è confermato ensemble di caratura mondiale, caratterizzato da un suono di grande nitidezza e da un affiatamento perfetto."
(Criticaclassica, 20 luglio 2013) Full review

Washington DC: Kennedy Center

"Put together a list of the world’s most enduring string quartets, and the Fine Arts Quartet — a powerhouse of American chamber music for more than six decades — will rank very near the top. That’s due to the group’s incisive powers of interpretation and a taste for off-the-beaten-path repertoire, both of which were in evidence...Tuesday night, when the quartet appeared at the Kennedy Center...The Fine Arts Players turned in a superb and absolutely impassioned performance — a seamless and astute reading from its slashing opening chords to its galloping, heart-racing finale."
(Stephen Brookes, Washington Post, December 13, 2012) Full review

Alsace: Festival aux Chandelles

"Hôte pour la cinquième fois du Festival aux Chandelles, le légendaire quatuor américain a été fêté par le public de Saint-Pierre-sur-l'Hâte. Soixante-six ans d'existence depuis sa fondation à Chicago et héritage du premier Quatuor de Budapest, son modèle d'alors, un esprit fait d'engagement expressif, de somptuosité de la couleur et de virtuosité au service du sens de l'oeuvre. La prestigieuse formation du Fine Arts Quartet a conservé son identité esthétique tandis que passait le relais d'une génération à l'autre."
(Christian Fruchart, Dernières Nouvelles d'Alsace, Sep 5, 2012)
Full review 



"The Fine Arts Quartet is playing its 66th season, and if you’re curious how that is physically possible, it’s simply a gentle substitution of new members throughout the decades. Remarkably, Ralph Evans and Efim Boico, the first and second violinists, respectively, came on board in the early 1980s, and since then, have recorded 80 pieces of music in a staggering discography...They began with Haydn’s “String Quartet in F Major, Op.74, No.2,” in a bright and precise performance. The Haydn was followed by the fantastic “String Quartet in A Minor, Op. 41, No.1...After intermission, the quartet was joined by Michelle Schumann for Dvorak’s Quintet in A major, Op. 81. And the spectacular opening movement was a tempest, giving the impression of teetering above a cliff face...It was an evening of focused performances of warmly rewarding works." (Luke Quinton, Austin360.com, July 9, 2012)
Full review


"The program of Haydn, Dohnányi and Zimbalist was a lovely array of the familiar, the relatively unknown and the almost completely obscure. It opened with Haydn’s String Quartet in F, op.74, no.2. The Fine Arts rendition was robust, focused and beautifully balanced...The musicians focused on its [the first movement's] formal integrity. They didn’t sacrifice the lyrical component, and the Andante grazioso second movement was particularly lovely. The Menuetto and Finale were vigorous and engaging...The Fine Arts performance [of the Dohnanyi] was thoroughly persuasive. The transitions from the introductions to the faster material were seamless, though that was only one of the many delights of the offering. Clean, well-blended and unanimous in intent, the four musicians were wonderfully expressive throughout the concert and these qualities brought the best features of Ephrem Zimbalist’s String Quartet in E minor to the fore.
(Richard Todd, Ottawa Citizen, July 6, 2012)
Full Review


"Everything was in place: The notes of a highly challenging score, played impeccably with apparent ease; expressiveness that sounded universal rather than willful and egotistical; and an attention to ensemble that makes the audience think that the musicians have been together for a lifetime. The players came across not only as interpreters of the score, but as poetic, expressive curators. Stellar technique certainly helps with this, but would mean nothing without their shared understanding of the music. They seemed to realize that the Trout is a gem, a perfect specimen. They dusted it off and displayed it, with just the right amount of personal insight. The performance was emotional but it was also restrained, and that made the results all the more powerful. Their sonic philosophy was evident from the explosive opening chord, followed by a first theme played with a sense of awe and mystery. A welcome delicacy permeated all five movements. They passed around the tune in the celebrated variation movement as if handing off a fragile treasure. The pianissimos in the andante couldn’t have been softer or more poignant. The performance certainly had its bravura moments, which stood out all the more amid the delicacy...Mozart’s exquisite String Quartet K 575...opened the program. Originally, 18th and 19th century chamber music was not meant for big halls but for domestic spaces. It is an intimate and conversational art. This performance captured that intimacy and sent it all the way up to the 4th row of the balcony." (Jonathan Brodie, Third Coast Digest, June 25, 2012)
Full Review


"The Fine Arts Quartet worked magic for Dohnányi from the first measures to the last; the final quiet chords satisfied as much as any fortissimo closing cadence." (David Bohn, Third Coast Digest, June 18, 2012)
Full review


"Det är ett varierat och vackert program gentlemännen i Fine Arts Quartet bjuder på...Inte var herrarna trötta efter sin fina konsert! Som extranummer fick vi en hisnande snabb Perpetual Motion från Haydns Stråkkvartett nr 54 i D-dur , "Lärkan" (1790). Vilken virtuositet! Välkomna tillbaka många gånger, Fine Arts Quartet." (Jenny B, Kulturdelen, 5:e maj 2012)
Full review


"À l’heure où le « jeunisme » est de mise, à l’heure où tant de nouvelles formations de chambristes talentueux piaffent en attendant une hypothétique gloire, qu’il est réconfortant de voir que sur les âmes bien nées les années n’ont pas de prise ! En effet, le quatuor Fine Arts et l’étonnant Menahem Pressler nous offrent sans lésiner des instants de pur bonheur...L’élégance, la sobriété, le sens du discours musical, tels peuvent être les qualificatifs caractérisant le jeu des quatre instrumentistes dans l’interprétation du quatuor de Haydn. Ils savent faire ressortir aussi bien le côté « école de cavalerie espagnole » aristocratique du thème du premier mouvement, que celui d’inspiration populaire du dernier ; ils savent nous faire goûter aux audaces harmoniques des changements de tons de la première partie aussi bien qu’insister sur le caractère ambigu de celui de l’adagio...Avec le sens de la logique musicale qui semble les caractériser, le quatuor Fine Arts et le pianiste Menahem Pressler nous ont bercés en bis avec le mouvement du quintette de Brahms dont le thème ambigu sans cesse répété conduit aux pays des rêves..." (Joelle Farenc, Resmusica.com, 30 novembre 2011)
Full review


"FINE ARTS QUARTET, POUR LE MEILLEUR DE LA MUSIQUE...D'emblée, l'on remarque avec plaisir l'assurance des quatre musiciens qui galvanise le groupe. Leur longue expérience s'exprime à chaque instant, tant dans leurs expressions scéniques que dans leur jeu. Et il en faut, soyez-en persuadés, pour jouer un Quatuor de Haydn en concert. Leur jeu clair et précis, appuyé par l'ingéniosité des contrastes reflétait la subtile cohésion des quatre musiciens. L'écoute mutuelle des chambristes permit une grande clarité dans leur discours mais également une interprétation pleine de vie, à la fois riche en couleurs, en nuances et en subtilité...La virtuosité de chacun des intrumentistes était impressionnante notamment par sa précision rhythmique." (Lorraine Wild, Le Bien Publique, 27 novembre 2011)

Archive of all concerts and programmes since 2001.