In a turn of the tables, Music at Kohl Mansion musicologist Kai Christiansen has an interview of ASQ’s Fred Lifsitz in anticipation of the upcoming MAKM Alexander String Quartet performance on Sunday, February 10.


Kai Christiansen: Congratulations on having just celebrated your 30th anniversary. That is an amazing achievement for any long term relationship. What are some of the secrets you have learned about “staying together” all this time?

Fred Lifsitz: We have learned to be calmer about a number of things that tend to break groups up such as scheduling, repertoire, interpretive and artistic ideas and, frankly, money. We know that the Quartet supports four households and that a great many
people around the world have been tremendously supportive for over three decades. We don’t want to destroy that trust and what we have built together.

Kai: Part of your amazing work over the years is the educational out reach to young students in public schools. I know you have taught
them. What is something they have taught you?

Fred: We have discovered that young people, whether or not they know much about music or not, can absorb the intellectual and emotional aspects and impact of the music and have a good deal to say about what the music means to them. If you make the effort to play on the highest level (the only way we know how to aspire to) they will meet you more than half way. It’s tremendously rewarding.

Kai: On your upcoming program at Kohl Mansion, you will be playing Brahms and Britten. Your blog seems to frequently bring up food. How about giving us a little comparison/contrast between Brahms and Britten using food as an analogy?

Fred: Brahms could be meat and potatoes with excellent Coffee and Britten a big pot pie with a nice Earl Grey tea.

Kai: Speaking of another composer you have often played, what food might be Shostakovich?

Fred: When I think of Shostakovich I think of my grandfathers fabulous beet borscht soup. Hot or cold.

Kai: At the concert, Toby Appel will be joining you to make a viola quintet for the Brahms. What does a fifth member do to the group
dynamics? This must kind of “shake up” the normal relationship of the Alexander Quartet. What can you share? If nothing else, this gives you twice the opportunity for viola jokes.

Fred: Having a guest, especially one like Toby, is a lot like a family having a favorite relative come for a visit. We play works that are less
often played and the ideas and influence on the quartet from our guest help to keep us fresh and vibrant. It feels like a wonderful festive

Kai: Tell us a bit more about your foray into Britten’s quartets. Give us something to entice us into joining you in the exploration. What
have YOU discovered?

Fred: Britten writes fabulously for the quartet and expresses the most elevated emotional, intellectual and spiritual ideals throughout his
compositions. Playing and listening to Britten’s Quartets is exhilarating.

Kai: Back to the marvelous achievement of your 30th anniversary. What is something you are hoping to achieve in the next 30, part 2, so to speak? Anything you’d like to change?

Fred: I think we’d like to explore several Mozart and Haydn Quartets that we haven’t played yet. We still love to be part of the contemporary music world and will undoubtedly take part in the commissioning and premiere performance process. We go to work every day with the goal of playing better than before, no matter what we play. I know that collectively and individually we plan to do more creative educational work both applied and interdisciplinary . We have loved our years of Music at Kohl Mansion outreach.

Music at Kohl Mansion
Sunday, February 10, 2013 – 7pm
Alexander String Quartet with violist Toby Appel
Brahms: String Quintet No. 1 in F, Op. 88
Britten: Three Divertimenti for String Quartet
Brahms: String Quintet No. 2 in G, Op. 111
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