Founded in 1992, the Arianna String Quartet (ASQ) moved from Michigan to St. Louis in 2000 and became the Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Initially the quartet split its concert schedule between the Ethical Society and the Sheldon Concert Hall but was concerned that the audiences were completely separate. But with the opening of UMSL’s Touhill Performing Arts Center in 2003, the quartet found a new home in the center’s Lee Theater. The quartet is comprised of violinists John McGrosso and Julia Sakharova, violist Joanna Mendoza and cellist Kurt Baldwin.
A hallmark of each ASQ concert is a pre-concert lecture when audience members get a behind-the-scenes experience with the members of the quartet. McGrosso commented, “If I could point to any one thing that would show how far we’ve come and how much we’ve integrated ourselves into the community and to the performing arts scene here, it would really be those pre-concert sessions where we can get to interact and joke around a little bit with the audience and really create a wonderful sort of living room atmosphere before our concert starts.”
The ASQ’s season four-concert season opens on September 5 with "Dynamic Duo" when the quartet will be joined by St. Louis Symphony Principal Clarinetist Scott Andrews in Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet. Mendoza explained how the season is assembled. “Each concert features a late Beethoven quartet that is part of our ongoing recording project with Centaur Records so that was part of the plan as well as some collaborations that have been on our radar that we’ve been wanting to do for quite some time now.”
The collaboration in the November 7 concert titled “Beethoven and Klein” is with oboist Alex Klein who directs the festival in Brazil that the ASQ attends each year. The March 6 concert, “Contemporary Beethoven” is highlighted by that composer’s Grosse Fugue that Mendoza describes as a “25 minute vertigo.” The ASQ season concludes May 8 with “Bold New World” which features quartets by Haydn, Bartok and Beethoven.
In addition to its Touhill series, the ASQ will present "First Monday's with the Arianna String Quartet" a series of five informal concerts with conversation in the Community Room of UMSL at Grand Center, the home of St. Louis Public Radio. The concerts are scheduled October 6, November 3, March 2, April 6 and May 4.
Before the season gets underway, the ASQ will perform in a concert to benefit University City Children’s Center’s scholarship fund. The ASQ will be joined by St. Louis Symphony cellist Melissa Brooks, violinist Jane Price and pianist Ruth Price for the 9th Annual “Fairy Tales Can Come True,” Friday, August 22 at The Sheldon. The concert is preceded by a reception at 6:30 p.m. and concludes with a dessert reception. McGrosso explained, “The whole evening is about generosity and the spirit of giving and that’s a wonderful way for us as musicians also to share with the audience to tap into the composers’ generosity in sharing their fabulous vision of humanity."