Fine Arts Quartet Records, 1910-2016


The FAQ first performed in 1940 in Chicago with Leonard Sorkin on 1st violin, Ben Senescu on 2nd violin, Sheppard Lehnhoff on viola, and George Sopkin on cello. They had planned and formed the FAQ in 1939 while they were members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. World War II prevented them from maintaining a regular performance schedule. The FAQ become a continuing organization in 1946.

Sorkin, who trained under Mischa Mischakoff, was the guiding force behind the FAQ. In 1939, he was a member of the 1st violin section of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Sorkin studied in Chicago with Daniel Saidenberg and in Switzerland with Emmanuel Fauermann. The collection does not document the background of the other two founders. Senescu did not stay with the quartet after World War II. Joseph Stepansky took his place sometime before 1946. In 1952, Lehnhoff returned to the Chicago Symphony and was replaced by Irving Ilmer, who left in 1962, to be replaced by Bernard Zaslav. Zaslav studied at the Julliard School of Music. He retired in 1980 and was replaced by Jerry Horner, who was a violinist with the Dallas and Pittsburgh Symphonies. Joseph Stepansky returned to the Chicago Symphony in 1954 and was replaced by Abram Loft. Loft had studied with Herbert Ditteler in New York and received a Ph.D. in musicology from Columbia University. Laurence Shapiro replaced Loft about 1980. Sopkin retired in 1979 and was replaced by Wolfgang Laufer. In 1983, Sorkin retired and became founding director of the Institute of Chamber Music at UWM. Leonard Sorkin died June 7, 1985.

From its founding, the FAQ was successful. Between 1946-1954 it appeared on Sunday morning broadcasts on the ABC network. The FAQ appeared five times on the Today Show between 1955 and 1958 and in 1960, on the Ed Sullivan Show. Between 1951-54, it was the Visiting Quartet at Northwestern University. In 1958, the FAQ went on its first European tour and returned to Europe in 1959, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1969-70, and each year between 1975 and 1980. On a visit to London in 1966, the members of the quartet made six broadcasts for the BBC and appeared at Royal Festival Hall. In 1967, the FAQ took a Far East tour under the auspices of the U.S. Department of State to Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Bangkok, Australia and New Zealand.

Throughout its history the FAQ played the standard repertoire of quartets as well as award-winning modern pieces by composer Karel Husa and classic twentieth century quartets by Shostakovich, Bartok and Wuorinen. The quartet recorded extensively. About 1958, the FAQ began its own recording company, Concertapes Concert Discs.

In January 2018 the Fine Arts Quartet marked the end of a 55-year residency at UWM and a transition for the quartet. Cellist Robert Cohen and violist Juan-Miguel Hernandez retired from the group, as Gil Sharon and Niklas Schmidt became new members.