Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Chamber Music Society Sounds Confident Note

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Chamber Music Society Sounds Confident Note

Article excerpt

Getting to Juilliard may be a goal of most classical musicians, but for music lovers, getting it -- the Juilliard String Quartet, that is -- ranks just as high.

If that were the measure of an arts presenting organization, then the Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society would rank high, as well. It has booked the famed quartet no less than 33 times. Add to that its hosting of many other top quartets and ensembles and its supporters have much to celebrate in this, its 50th anniversary year.

A gala starting at 5 p.m. Sunday in the Pittsburgh Opera Building, Strip District, that will include dinner and a performance by pianist Christopher O'Riley, cellist Matt Haimovitz and soprano Lisette Oropesa, is the culmination of a season-long celebration.

Chamber music is a loosely defined word usually encompassing ensembles of several musicians but can be single-musician recitals. PCMS largely presents string quartets. "This closeness of the audience and the performers is why chamber music has been so popular for centuries, and why the Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society enjoys such a loyal following in this region," says Annie Mollova, executive director.

"It is part of a distinguished and venerable group of presenting societies," says Margaret Lioi, executive director of Chamber Music America. "It is an important organization and presents top-quality ensembles."

"The Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society is one of the oldest in the country," says board president Darlene Berkovitz. "A number have had to shut their doors, while [we] could stand beside any chamber music series in New York City or London, Paris, etc. It is something that is very special to have in a city our size."

You could trace its history even further in the past. PCMS was an outgrowth of the New Friends of Music, a solo and chamber-music presenting organization run by famed pianist Eunice Norton and her husband, Dr. Bernard Lewis. When it was founded in 1937, it was one of the few chamber series in America. Ms. Norton got the ball rolling with a strong lineup of luminaries such as pianists Artur Schnabel and Dame Myra Hess and ensembles such as the Budapest Quartet.

When lack of funds led to the end of the New Friends, former patrons who regretted its loss sprang up to continue chamber music concerts in town. They formed the Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society in 1961. "PCMS is sort of the child of the Pittsburgh New Friends of Music," says Ms. Berkovitz.

In fact, its early days had "most of the same people who came to the Friends series," says Nat Melamed, who joined the board in 1964. "At first, about 250-350 people were going to each concert, but the entire subscription was the cost of one concert in New York. We were a good buy."

Membership grew steadily, peaking at 1,100 subscribers in the '90s, as did yearly concerts, from four to eight at Carnegie Music Hall. …

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