August 23, 2001 Julliard String Quartet Assumes New Educational Role with the Library of Congress
Contact: Helen Dalrymple (202) 707-1940
As part of its mission to reach the broadest possible public, the Library of Congress is embarking on a new educational program with the Juilliard String Quartet.
Starting in the 2003-2004 concert season, the Library's legendary Stradivarius instruments will be passed on for use in concerts at the Library's Coolidge Auditorium, donated by Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge in 1925, to younger quartets under the mentorship of the Juilliard and other distinguished string players yet to be announced. This will extend the residency to include other quartets, but it will not end the relationship between the Juilliard Quartet and the Library. The instruments were given to the Library's Music Division by Gertrude Clarke Whittall in 1935 and have been used almost exclusively since then by the Budapest Quartet (1937-1962) and the Juilliard.
The plan was developed by members of the quartet, Joel Smirnoff, Ronald Copes, Samuel Rhodes and Joel Krosnick with Music Division chief Jon Newsom during discussions about the upcoming celebration of the Quartet's fortieth anniversary with the Library.
It was Mrs. Whittall's wish, expressed in conversations with officers of the Library and documented, that the instruments be used by as many artists who were engaged to perform in the Library's concerts as possible. When the instruments were first purchased by Mrs. Whittall, however, it was difficult to find a qualified string quartet that would agree to use the instruments exclusively on the Library premises and accept the restriction, still in effect through Mrs. Whittall's instrument of gift, on removing them from the Library. Artists are reluctant to perform publicly on instruments they cannot play regularly.
Moreover, musicians accomplished in chamber music were rare at that time, because chamber music was then a relative novelty in America. It took decades of proselytizing by the Library through free public concerts and broadcasts made possible through Mrs. Coolidge's and Mrs.Whittall's generosity to establish a firm place for chamber music in America. Fortunately, a great quartet arrived and rose to the challenge of playing the instruments, solving the problem of access to the instruments by moving to Washington. That was the famed Budapest Quartet, which, in 1962, was succeeded by the Juilliard.
Today there are many excellent quartets, and chamber music in America is flourishing, as was demonstrated recently by a series of master classes held jointly by the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian under the auspices of the Irving Caesar Trust. Members of the Juilliard and the Smithsonian's Axelrod Quartet participated.
"We are using the occasion of the Quartet's 40th anniversary with the Library," said Mr. Newsom, "to celebrate with something that seems new, but is really the original idea behind Mrs. Whittall's gift. We will have limited appointments of two or three years' duration for young quartets who will work under the guidance of the Juilliard Quartet and other distinguished artists. This will make the instruments available to many string players and it will give them a chance to gain experience and well-deserved public exposure in the Library's chamber music series." The Juilliard Quartet will continue to play at the Library, but there will be no more established residencies.