A Brief History of Our Organization
Syracuse Friends of Chamber Music (SFCM) was founded by virtuoso violinist Louis Krasner in 1949. Krasner came to the United States from Ukraine in 1908 at the age of five and studied violin as a young man at the New England Conservatory of Music, returning to Europe for further studies and making his concert debut in Vienna. Early in his professional life he developed an interest in performing 20th-century music, and in 1934 he commissioned Alban Berg's Violin Concerto, which he premiered in 1936. He also played the world premiere of Schoenberg's Violin Concerto in 1940 with the Philadelphia Orchestra, under the direction of the legendary Leopold Stokowski.
In the late 1940s, Krasner served as concert master for Dimitri Mitropoulos at the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, and while there he was able to explore the idea of bringing chamber music—a long-time passion—to the attention of American audiences. With Mitropoulos' encouragement he persuaded some of his fellow musicians to join him in performing chamber music concerts, and they were so well received that the Minneapolis-St. Paul community formed a "Friends of Chamber Music" group. In 1949, Krasner joined the faculty of the Syracuse University School of Music, and upon his arrival in Syracuse he set about with others of like mind to create a chamber music society for his new community—again with the support of Mitropoulos, who had moved to the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. The result was the birth of Syracuse Friends of Chamber Music, with Krasner as its guiding genius. In addition to his roles as university professor and chamber music advocate, Krasner served as Concertmaster for the Syracuse Symphony from its inception in 1961 until 1968.
One of Krasner's initial visions as Music Director of SFCM was to combine internationally known musicians with talented Syracuse professional performers. He formed a string quartet—the Krasner Ensemble—with his violinist wife Adrienne, violist Claude Bortel and cellist Jack Karp, and during the '50s the Krasner Ensemble was the centerpiece of the seasons' programs. In the 1960s, SFCM brought first the Julliard Quartet and then many other well-known groups to Central New York for the first time. By the early '70s SFCM's major performance focus was on distinguished chamber music groups from all over the world, although it continued to showcase artists from the local music community, including, among many others, Helen Boatwright, Frederick Marvin, Philip MacArthur, John Oberbrunner, and Gerald Zampino. Under Krasner's aegis, SFCM encouraged the performance of 20th century chamber music and brought a number of its more prominent composers to Syracuse.
Louis Krasner left Syracuse for Boston in 1976. He was succeeded as music director by Henry Palocz, who continued the outstanding programming that had been a hallmark of SFCM since the beginning. In 2008, after 32 years of dedicated and distinguished service, Palocz became Music Director Emeritus. Richard Moseson became SFCM's third music director in 2008, and Jonathan Chai took over as programming director in 2014. For the last several years, Krasner Award-winning SFCM board member John Oberbrunner has been responsible for coordinating a mid-season concert by outstanding regional musicians—in keeping with Louis Krasner's original vision.
SFCM looks forward to celebrating chamber music past and present in many ways, and for many years to come.
A Few Highlights of Our History
- 1950-51: The first concert, on October 1, 1950, featured Bach's Musical Offering, with the Krasner Ensemble joined by visiting artists. In the third concert, Dimitri Mitropoulos performed as pianist in Ernest Chausson's Concerto for Violin, Piano and String Quartet.
- 1951-52: Dmitri Mitropoulos, trapped in Buffalo by a snowstorm, hired an intrepid cabbie to drive him to Syracuse, arriving just in time for an SFCM rehearsal and concert.
- 1962-63: The Juilliard Quartet performed as the first visiting professional quartet sponsored by SFCM – one of more than twenty appearances by the Juilliard throughout the years.
- 1966-67: The Guarneri String Quartet, formed in 1964, made its first appearance with SFCM. The same season, New York Pro-Musica presented the Play of Daniel to a capacity house. SFCM made Crouse College auditorium its permanent home until 1984.
- 1973-74: The Tokyo Quartet debuted with SFCM, substituting for the Juilliard Quartet—their mentors—who were snowbound in Indiana.
- 1978-79: The Primavera Quartet, possibly the first all-woman chamber-music quartet, appeared with SFCM.
- 1979-80: The Emerson Quartet appeared in the first of seven concerts with SFCM. The Cleveland Quartet appeared, with Helen Boatwright singing Respighi's Il Tramonta.
- 1982-83: The Juilliard Quartet performed an all-Beethoven program, the first concert of the season, to an audience of over 900 overflowing into the aisles and onto the stage of Crouse College Auditorium—the largest SFCM audience thus far.
- 1984-85: SFCM moved to a larger concert venue at H. W. Smith School auditorium.
- 1986-87: The Michala Petri Trio played to a full house at H. W. Smith Auditorium.
- 1989-90: SFCM celebrated its 40th Anniversary with a dinner party honoring Louis and Adrienne Krasner.
- 1995-96: The Waverley Consort presented a special Christmas program at the Schine Student Center at Syracuse University, supplementing the regular season schedule.
- 1998-99: SFCM instituted an annual Youth Competition coordinated by John Oberbrunner, and judged in later years by Syracuse Symphony conductor Daniel Hege with other prominent local musical professionals. The Krasner Memorial Fund was established as SFCM's sustaining fund. The vocal and instrumental Canadian group Les Violons du Roy performed a Bach/Handel program.
- 1999-2000: The Krasner Award was established and presented to its first recipient, Henry Palocz, at SFCM's 50th Anniversary Dinner Celebration. The Cassatt String Quartet performed.
- 2000-01: The Guarneri String Quartet appeared with the identical artists who had performed in their 1966 concert with SFCM.
- 2001-03: The Vermeer String Quartet played a complete series of Beethoven String Quartets in six consecutive performances during the second half of the 2001-02 season, and the first half of 2002-03.
- 2005-06: A seventh concert featuring area musicians was added to the regular season, with John Oberbrunner as coordinator.
- 2006-07: In their farewell season, the Vermeer String Quartet appeared for their eleventh concert with SFCM.
- 2007-08: The Beaux Art Trio performed their seventh concert for SFCM in their final performing season. SFCM moved its concerts to Lincoln School Auditorium.
- 2008-09: During their farewell season the Guarneri String Quartet appeared in their tenth concert for SFCM, capping a long performance association which began in 1964, two years after the Guarneri was formed.
- 2012-13: The world-renowned Tokyo Quartet, whose debut was with SFCM in 1973-74 as a last-minute substitute for the Juilliard Quartet, opened our 63rd season as a part of their final season together.
- 2014-15: After five years in the Lincoln Middle School Auditorium, SFCM moved back to H. W. Smith, where the auditorium is newly renovated. The larger capacity allowed us to adopt a policy of admitting students free to all concerts.
- 2015-16: SFCM commissioned a new work from composer Marc Mellits, premiered by The Dublin Guitar Quartet at its March 2016 concert. SFCM is very proud to have initiated this important new contribution to chamber music literature.
- 2016-17: The Juilliard String Quartet returned in September, 2016, with its new cellist, Astrid Schween. This was the Quartet's 23rd concert for SFCM.
Prominent Composers Who Have Appeared with SFCM
- Ernst Bacon
- Luciano Berio
- Howard Boatwright
- Aaron Copland
- George Henry Crumb
- Mario Davidovsky
- Lukas Foss
- Earl George
- Alan Hovhaness
- Karel Husa
- Leon Kirchner
- Ernst Krenek
- Ezra Laderman
- Marc Mellits
- Franklin Morris
- Vincent Persichetti
- Sigurd Rascher
- George Rochberg
- Gunther Schuller
- Roger Sessions
- Joan Towers
- Ray de la Torre
- Fernando Valenti