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Quartet’s Strings From 17th Century

Travis Rivers Correspondent

The Lafayette String Quartet

Time and location: Sunday, 3 p.m., The Met

Tickets: $15 ($10 for students/seniors) at Hoffman Music and G&B

String players long to play “the perfect instrument.” All too often, that instrument is a 17th- or 18thcentury Italian instrument commanding a price in the millions of dollars.

Members of the Lafayette Quartet hit it lucky. In 1992, after playing together for eight years, the members of the group - violinists Ann ElliottGoldschmidt and Sharon Stanis, violist Joanna Hood and cellist Pamela Highbaugh-Aloni - were offered the opportunity to play four instruments made between 1606 and 1690 by members of the famous Amati family.

The Lafayette players and their Amatis will come to Spokane to perform Sunday at The Met as part of the Spokane Chamber Music Association series. The group will perform Haydn’s Quartet in D major, Op. 20, No. 4; Beethoven’s Quartet in C-sharp minor, Op. 131 and Janacek’s Quartet in E minor.

Members of the quartet met in the early 1980s, when they played in the Renaissance City Chamber Players in Detroit.

Ann Elliott-Goldschmidt, the group’s first violinist, is a native of the Canadian maritime province, New Brunswick. She had studied at Boston University with Vladimir Yampolsky and was a prize-winning soloist both in Canada and the United States.

Sharon Stanis, second violinist in the Lafayette, grew up in Cleveland. Inspired as a child by the violinists on the Lawrence Welk TV show, Stanis took up the violin hoping to play, instead, in some organization such as the Cleveland Orchestra. She studied at the Cleveland Institute with Linda Cerone and later at Indiana University with Henryk Kowalski.

The violist of the ensemble, Joanna Hood, studied at the San Francisco Conservatory with Isadore Tinkleman and later at Indiana with the Cleveland Quartet’s violist, Abraham Skernick. She also studied baroque performance with Stanley Richie. Cellist Pamela HighbaughAloni, a California native, had studied at California State University at Northridge with Peter Rejto and was studying at Indiana with Janos Starker when she met future Lafayette players Stanis and Hood.

After the group formed in Detroit, its members worked with the Cleveland and the Alban Berg quartets. The group has also worked closely with Rostislav Dubinsky of the old Borodin Quartet. As a quartet, The Lafayette won the grand prize in the 1988 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition and prizes in England’s Portsmouth Competition and the Chicago Discovery Competition.

The Lafayette became the quartetin-residence at the University of Victoria in British Columbia in 1991. A year later, after playing a concert in Saskatoon at the University of Saskatchewan, its members were given indefinite use of the university’s Amati instruments. The collection had been assembled in the 1940s and ‘50s by Saskatchewan wheat farmer, collector and amateur violinist Stephen Kolbinson.

Kolbinson had sold his collection to the University of Saskatchewan in 1958 for a fraction of its value, but the university had never had a permanent quartet to play the Amatis. In return for use of the instruments, the Lafayette returns to Saskatoon from their residency in Victoria twice yearly to perform concerts and work with local string players and teachers.

In addition to concert performances, the Lafayette last fall released a Dorian compact disc of works by Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich to be followed in February by a second disc of pieces by Shostakovich and Stravinsky.

And the quartet’s name?

Quartet names come from a variety of sources: a composer (Vienna’s Alban Berg Quartet), a patron (the Coolidge Quartet), an instrument maker (the Guarneri Quartet), even a city (the Cleveland Quartets). The Lafayette is probably the only ensemble named for a freeway exit. When the group was first formed, it rehearsed at the Detroit home of its first violinist. To get there, other members of the group had to take the Lafayette Exit off Interstate 95.

In addition to Sunday’s concert, members of the Lafayette Quartet will also conduct a master class for music students at Eastern Washington University at 1 p.m. Monday at the Music Building Recital Hall in Cheney. Admission to the workshop is free.

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