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Listen: A Wister Quartet Premiere Live from the WRTI Performance Studio

Robert Schaeffer
Wister Quartet includes: Nancy Bean and Davyd Booth, violins; Pamela Fay, viola; Lloyd Smith, cello

A fascinating first-hearing of a string quartet by Marcel Farago is the centerpiece of the live broadcast recorded on March 6th when the Wister Quartet performed the work. Jack Moore was host.

Marcel Farago’s String Quartet was written while he was hiding from the Nazis during the Holocaust. Rumanian by birth, Marcel had studied composition with the eminent Rumanian composer and violinist Georges Enescu. While he was being sheltered during the war by the woman who afterwards became his wife, he first turned his attention seriously to composing, presumably to help him cope with his dangerous situation.

Wister Quartet cellist Lloyd Smith explains that the first movement conveys a strong sense of connection with his faith as well as with his parents. The second movement describes dancing, with the underlying idea that “I may never do this again.” The eloquent slow movement is a most beautiful and moving elegy, a treasuring of life and of love while it lasts. The Finale opens with a heart-rending burst of anxiety which is dealt with as the movement progresses in fatalistic, courageous, and compellingly compassionate ways. It ends with a powerfully defiant final statement.

Marcel came to the United States in 1949 and joined The Philadelphia Orchestra’s cello section, where Smith says he came to know him when he joined the Orchestra in 1967.

Since its formation in 1987, the Wister Quartet has earned high praise from critics and audiences alike for its superb musicianship and memorable performances, including those with guest artists Emanuel Ax, Yefim Bronfman, Christoph Eschenbach, Alicia de Larrocha, Wolfgang Sawallisch and Yo-Yo Ma. Named to honor Frances Anne Wister, the founder of The Philadelphia Orchestra’s Volunteer Committees, the members of the Wister Quartet have all had a long association with the Orchestra. It is the core ensemble of Philadelphia’s 1807 & Friends chamber music organization.

In addition to concerts in Europe and China, the Wister Quartet performs widely in the Philadelphia region, including concerts at Arcadia University and Swarthmore College. It appears regularly in concerts presented by the German Society of Pennsylvania, where it is celebrating its 27th season on their concert series; The Chamber Music Society of Bethlehem; and Glencairn Museum. The Wister Quartet makes summertime appearances at Music at Gretna; the Lenape Chamber Players Gala Concerts in Doylestown; Concerts by Candlelight at the Laurel Hill Mansion in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park; and Freedom Park in Scotia, New York. The Wister Quartet celebrated its 30th anniversary last season.

Hear their performance, Tuesday, March 6 at 11 AM, hosted by Jack Moore.