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Diehn String Quartet Renamed to Honor Russell Stanger; Performance Set for May 6

The inaugural concert of the Russell Stanger String Quartet will be held at Old Dominion University at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 6, in Chandler Recital Hall of the Diehn Fine and Performing Arts Center. The performance is free and open to the public.

The university will recognize Stanger, an internationally known composer and conductor, for his contributions to music and to ODU with an honorary degree at its May 9 commencement ceremonies. In addition, the Diehn String Quartet will be renamed in his honor.

Stanger came to Virginia in 1966 as the music director and conductor of the Norfolk Symphony and appointed the first African American orchestra member. During his 14 seasons he oversaw the merger of several local orchestras to create the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, which is recognized as one of the nation's leading regional symphony orchestras and for which he now serves as conductor laureate.

Prior to his arrival in Virginia, Stanger was the assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic and Minneapolis Symphony. He also has served as guest conductor with some of the leading North American and European orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, the National Broadcasting Corporation Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic, the London Philharmonic and the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire, Paris.

Stanger was a long-time friend of F. Ludwig Diehn and a promoter of his music. Diehn died in 1995, leaving a bequest that would benefit ODU through The Norfolk Foundation (now the Hampton Roads Community Foundation). Stanger is an adviser to the F. Ludwig Diehn Fund.

In 1994, Stanger donated to ODU a significant collection of music scores, books, periodicals, concert posters, photographs, music notations and archival information about music performances he conducted and the performers with whom he worked. It also contains scores and some parts for works composed by Stanger. The Russell Stanger Collection was the first material received by ODU's Diehn Composers Room after the Diehn Collection itself. More than 60 sound recordings of works written by other composers are also available in the Diehn Music Library.

The Russell Stanger String Quartet will perform works by Mendelssohn and Prokofiev at the May 6 concert. The quartet, established in 2000 by Leslie Stewart, former ODU violin professor, is composed of students selected by audition and sometimes augmented with a string bass. The ensemble is in great demand to perform at college, civic and private functions. The quartet often performs at area public schools and its members recently served as coaches at the Suffolk All-City Orchestra Festival.

The quartet has performed in master classes with guest artists such as the Brentano String Quartet and Maia Quartet. While many colleges and universities support a graduate-level string quartet, ODU is unique in offering scholarships specifically for an undergraduate ensemble.

The Russell Stanger String Quartet performs on a set of matching modern Italian instruments by the maker Alvaro Corrochano as part of a scholarship sponsored by the Virginia chapter of the American String Teachers Association (VASTA).

The instruments, commissioned by an anonymous donor and collector of fine instruments, are all made of wood from the same tree and designed to blend with the same timbre. The second violin, for example has been adjusted to serve as a tonal bridge between the first violin and the viola. The technique of creating a "blended quartet" contributes to the rarity and value of the instruments, since a luthier will only make them on commission because of the extra time and expense required. It took Corrochano, the Spanish-born instrument maker who studied, and now lives, in Italy more than a year to build this particular set. ODU's Russell Stanger String Quartet is the first ensemble to receive this award from VASTA. The students will have the use of these instruments for one year.

Currently, the quartet includes:

  • Anna Dobrzyn, violin - a senior majoring in music education with a performance emphasis;
  • Mary Dart, violin - a senior majoring in music education with a performance emphasis;
  • Shirley Luu, viola - a junior majoring in international studies with an emphasis in East Asia and minoring in music performance; and
  • Kevin Jones, cello - a senior cello performance major.

This article was posted on: May 5, 2009

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