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Hailed for its exquisite artistry, technical mastery, and astute approach to concert programming, Orion String Quartet is one of the most admired chamber ensembles on the international music scene. The group, also one of the finest interpreters of Mozart’s chamber compositions, will be joined by frequent collaborator Ida Kavafian on viola for a fall performance as Lafayette begins celebrating early the 2006 “Mozart Year.”

They will perform three pieces: Mozart’s Quintet for Two Violins, Two Violas and Cello in both C major and G minor, and his String Quartet in E-flat Major 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 8, at the Williams Center for the Arts. Tickets cost $18 and may be purchased by calling the box office at 610-330-5009.

Other performances in the Williams Center’s Chamber Music series are The Western Wind: O Beautiful, with an inventive a cappella sextet offering a tour de force anthology of American music for the annual Dr. Aaron M. Litwak Concert, 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 28, $15; English Concert with Andrew Manze, who wowed his Lafayette audience two years ago as soloist-conductor of the Academy of Ancient Music, 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17, $22; perennial Lafayette favorite Orpheus Chamber Orchestra with heralded Russian violinist Vadim Repin for the annualJ. Mahlon and Grace Buck Concert, 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2, $27;Christopher O’Riley and Fred Hersch: Heard Fresh, two of the leading artists from the worlds of classical music and jazz joining forces in a genre-bending program of keyboard music, 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 8, $18; and Orpheus again with percussionist Evelyn Glennie in aScottish-themed program for the annual Croasdale Concert, 3 p.m. Sunday, March 26, $27. A subscription to the series can be purchased for $109 through Sept. 9, a savings of $18 compared to the total price of a ticket for each concert.

In a non-subscription event, Orpheus will perform with pianist Richard Goode for a tribute to Goode 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14. He will join the group on two concertos that have become artistic trademarks in his esteemed career: Mozart’s E-flat Major Concerto and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor. J.C. Bach’s Sinfonia in B-flat Major, Op. 18, No. 2, and Cerubini’s Overture to Faniska complete the program. Tickets cost $30.

In addition Chamber Music, the Performance Series at Lafayette includes individual Jazz Masters, Footlights, and Sound Alternatives series.

Heard frequently on National Public Radio’s “Performance Today” and “WNYC Live,” Orion String Quartet has also appeared on A&E’s “Breakfast with the Arts,” PBS’ “Live from Lincoln Center,” and three times on ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America.”

“The Orion String Quartet had the audience listening intently down to minuscule levels of tone,” states a concert review in The New York Times. “The persuasive power of the performance came from the exquisiteness and eloquence the four players brought to their lines. But it also came from how all of them phrased together — and, it seemed, breathed together.”

“The group’s playing and interpretation [were] consistently beguiling and technically impeccable,” reports The Los Angeles Times. “The four extremely virtuosic and accomplished players of the Orion Quartet seem to have been born to be together.”

Highlights of the quartet’s 17-year history include diverse projects ranging from collaborations with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company to performances of the complete Beethoven Quartets in a five-concert series over the span of a single weekend. The members of the quartet — violinists Daniel Phillips and Todd Phillips (brothers who share the first violin chair equally), violist Steven Tenenbom, and cellist Timothy Eddy — have worked with such legendary figures as Pablo Casals, Rudolf Serkin, Isaac Stern, Pinchas Zukerman, Yo-Yo Ma, Peter Serkin, András Schiff, Wynton Marsalis, members of TASHI and the Beaux Arts Trio, as well as the Budapest, Végh, Galimir, and Guarneri String Quartets. Orion continues to perform in the world’s leading concert halls and serves as quartet-in-residence at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and New York’s Mannes College of Music.

In summer 2004, Orion premiered jazz great Chick Corea’s String Quartet, commissioned by the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival and La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest. The quartet also gave the New York premiere of this work at Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Additional Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center engagements last season included the complete cycle of the Bartók String Quartets in November 2004 and a special concert that included Schoenberg’s Quartet No. 2 in F-sharp minor with Soprano, Op. 10, featuring Susan Narucki. The quartet performed in Philadelphia; Louisville; Cleveland; Salt Lake City; Buffalo; Columbia, Md.; Durham, N.C.; Charleston, W.V.; Decorah, Iowa; Rye, N.Y.; El Paso, Texas; and Bloomington, Ind. The group also participated in a joint residency with the AMICI Ensemble, performing works by Boccherini, Bartók, and Brahms in Toronto.

Quartet members maintain a strong dedication to the next generation of musical artists and serve on the faculties of the Mannes College of Music, Curtis Institute of Music, Juilliard School, and Queens College, where they teach private lessons, give chamber music classes, and offer intensive coaching programs for young professional string quartets. They have also served as faculty members of the Isaac Stern Chamber Music Workshop at Carnegie Hall and the Summer Institute for Advanced Quartet Studies in Aspen. Since 1993, the Orion String Quartet has maintained a summer residency at Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. This includes a three-year project of commissioned quartets, the first of which was written by Danish composer Per Nørgård; the second by John Harbison, and the third by Corea. Last year, the quartet premiered Marc Neikrug’s piano quintet as part of the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival’s spring tour. Other festival appearances include Aspen, La Jolla SummerFest, Mostly Mozart, Lockenhaus Kammermusikfest, Musiktage Mondsee (Salzburg), and Spoleto (United States and Italy).

Since its inception, Orion String Quartet has been consistently praised for the fresh perspective and individuality it brings to performances of a broad range of repertoire. The group offers diverse programs that juxtapose classic works of the standard quartet literature with masterworks by living composers; the quartet’s recordings reflect this diversity. For Sony Classical, the Orion recorded Marsalis’ first classical composition for strings, At the Octoroon Balls (String Quartet No. 1). Commissioned by Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the work was written for and premiered by the ensemble. Other critically acclaimed recordings include Dvorák’s “American” String Quartet and Piano Quintet with Peter Serkin and Mendelssohn’s Octet with the Guarneri String Quartet, both on Arabesque.

The Orion String Quartet gained immediate attention in the classical music world when its founding members, each with distinguished solo and chamber music careers, officially formed the ensemble in 1987. The Quartet chose its name from the Orion constellation as a metaphor for the unique personality each musician brings to the group in its collective pursuit of the highest musical ideals.

Kavafian’s vast repertoire and impressive flexibility have gained her a unique position in the music world. Internationally acclaimed as a versatile artist who excels on violin as well as viola, Kavafian’s musical travels have taken her from solo recitals and orchestral appearances to chamber music, teaching, recording, and a highly acclaimed career as an artistic director and administrator.

Last season, Kavafian gave the New York premiere of Michael Daugherty’s Fire and Blood with the American Composer’s Orchestra. She also appeared in a chamber music series at the 92nd Street Y, at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art as a guest of Guarneri String Quartet playing music of Dvorak, and in Britten’s Double Violin Concerto together with her sister, Ani, with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. In spring 2004 Kavafian celebrated her long association as an artist member of Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center with the creation of a three-concert series that combined the complete violin and piano music of Stravinsky, new works, and selected Bach sonatas.

Since Kavafian’s founding membership in TASHI nearly 30 years ago, her chamber music appearances have included many renowned festivals and series, including Santa Fe, Tanglewood, Ravinia, Mostly Mozart, and Spoleto (Italy and United States). Kavafian recently co-founded a piano quartet, Opus One, that made highly successful debuts in New York, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Detroit. For 19 years, she has been artistic director of the Music from Angel Fire festival. She also founded and guided Bravo! Colorado in Vail as music director for 10 years, building it into one of the leading festivals in the country.

The nationally recognized Performance Series at Lafayette attracts more than 10,000 people each season. It has been cited for performing excellence by the National Endowment for the Arts, National Dance Project, Chamber Music America, Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Fund, Pennsylvania Arts and Humanities Councils, and Association of Performing Arts Presenters.

The 2005–2006 Performance Series is supported in part by gifts from Friends of the Williams Center for the Arts; by provisions of the Alan and Wendy Pesky Artist-in-Residence Program, the James Bradley Fund, and the Ed Brunswick Jazz Fund; and by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, Pennsylvania Performing Arts on Tour, the Dexter and Dorothy Baker Foundation, and New England Foundation for the Arts.

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