The Pro Arte Quartet

October 2017
30 black and white illustrations
368 pages
9x6 in
University of Rochester Press
BISAC MUS020000, MUS023040, MUS006000

The Pro Arte Quartet

A Century of Musical Adventure on Two Continents

John W. Barker

An engaging window into a century of musical life, as seen in the history of the Pro Arte String Quartet, first organized in 1912 and still performing today.
First organized in Brussels in 1912 by precocious young Belgian musicians, the Pro Arte String Quartet has survived two world wars and is still performing more than a century later -- a durability unique in the annals of such ensembles. Its membership has included such extraordinary musicians as founding first violinist Alphonse Onnou and his successor, Rudolf Kolisch. The Pro Arte was the first string quartet to be affiliated with an American university, a significant and much-imitated status, and the group continues to function in residence at the University of Wisconsin.

This book traces the Pro Arte Quartet's history from its beginnings to the present, highlighted by portraits of the diverse, fascinating, and colorful personalities, musicians and others, who have been a part of that history. The phases of its repertoires are analyzed, and the legacy of its recordings, many of pioneering significance, is reviewed. As a whole, the volume offers a panoramic window into a century of musical life.

John W. Barker is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author of Wagner and Venice (2008) and Wagner and Venice Fictionalized: Variations on a Theme (2012), both available from the University of Rochester Press.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Quartet Contexts
The Onnou Years, I (1912-31)
The Onnou Years, II (1932-40)
The Brosa Years (1940-44)
The Kolisch Years (1944-67)
The Paulu Years, I (1967-79)
The Paulu Years, II (1979-95)
The Perry Years (1995-Present)
Conclusion: Retrospect and Prospects
Appendix A: Benny Goodman and the QPA
Appendix B: Two Novels
Appendix C: The Contemporary Music Project (1984-86)
Appendix D: Commissions, Dedications, Premieres
Appendix E: Discography
Selected Bibliography
Index A: Composers
Index B: General


Provides a fascinating panoramic view of the various incarnations of the Pro Arte Quartet over its hundred-year history, with many invaluable insights and anecdotes. Pen portraits of the 27 players who have played in the PAQ and the many composers involved with them include Milhaud, Martinu, Bloch, Casella, Stravinsky, Bartók and Schoenberg, as well as Franco-Belgian and American composers; Goossens, Jongen, Koechlin, Schmitt, Tansman, Barber, Babbit, Bolcom, Harris, Krenek and Pizzetti amongst others. STRINGENDO AUSTA NATIONAL JOURNAL

Among the pearls here is an account of the quartet's encounter with an inscrutable Stravinsky. Founding violinist Alphonse Onnou's early death from leukemia in 1940 is recounted with great pathos thanks to various letters. It is often fascinating to read about the group's changing tastes and preferences. There are extensive listings of the group's recording projects, compiled with a meticulousness that does Mr. Barker credit. The book parts the veil on what life is like inside a quartet. There is much to savor here, and of course it draws you back to the music, which was always the point. AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE

Traces a century of history of one of the most prestigious string quartets of the twentieth century. A very remarkable contribution to the celebration of the [Pro Arte Quartet's] 100th anniversary. Thanks to [violist Germain Prevost's] infallible memory, Barker has been able to provide missing data and, at the same time, to illustrate his study with amusing anecdotes. REVUE BELGE DE MUSICOLOGIE

In this detailed account of the Pro Arte Quartet's 100-year existence, the generous appendices are almost worth the cover price alone...The main text is a meticulously researched chronology, tracing the main phases of the quartet's existence, changes in personnel...interpretative profile, repertoire, concert appearances and recordings...for quartet devotees this is something of a must. BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE

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