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Avalon String Quartet

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AVALON STRING QUARTET

The Avalon String Quartet is well ahead of schedule: not only have its young players developed uncommonly mature interpretive voices, but since forming in 1995 it's adapted to one personnel change and won a string of competitions juried by veterans. The Strad, a magazine for string professionals, mentioned its first performances, and soon afterward the quartet participated in violinist Isaac Stern's series of Carnegie Hall workshops; Stern has since invited the Avalon to give a recital there this winter. It won the grand prize at the Fischoff competition in 1998, and earlier this year placed first in the Concert Artists Guild competition--which means, among other things, that for the next two years the guild will arrange concert dates for the quartet. The current members--violinists Blaise Magniere and Mary Wang, violist Anthea Kreston, and cellist Katie Schlaikjer, who joined only two years ago--have adjusted to one another in a remarkably short time; they play with a cohesiveness that often compensates for lapses in interpretive acumen or immaturity in technique. Over the past three years, the Avalon has apprenticed with two of the best quartets going--the Vermeer, at Northern Illinois University in De Kalb, and the Emerson, at the University of Hartford. During its tenure with the Vermeer, it not only widened its repertory and improved its playing but built a loyal base of Chicago-area fans. The members' congeniality and camaraderie explain a lot of that phenomenon, of course, but intelligence and rapt concentration are what really distinguish their takes on the classics. This program includes Haydn's Quartet in E-flat, op. 33, no. 2; Beethoven's Quartet in E Minor, op. 59, no. 2; and Mozart's sublime Clarinet Quintet in A, which requires the string quartet to maintain a seamless repartee with a clarinet virtuoso (in this case, Chicago Symphony Orchestra assistant principal John Bruce Yeh). The recital inaugurates Northeastern University's brand-new Fine Arts Center. Friday, 8 PM, Fine Arts Center Recital Hall, Northeastern Illinois University, 5500 N. Saint Louis; 773-794-2787. TED SHEN

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