The ASQ is performing and recording this season on a matched set of beautiful American instruments – the Ellen M. Egger Quartet of instruments made by luthier Francis Kuttner. On Friday, the cello manifest strange buzzing and rattling noises and needed attention in a hurry. The ASQ spent a couple of hours first thing down at the Music Educators of Northern California in San Jose. During some on-stage demos with the excellent Aragon High School Quartet (the “other” ASQ 🙂 from San Mateo), Sandy noticed his cello was not responding properly. On returning to SF and after a quick ASQ rehearsal on Saturday’s Schubert program, a couple of phone calls established that the instrument’s maker, Francis was free and able to take a quick look. Kuttner is about to head back to Cremona (Italy) for four months so we needed to get this fixed before the first of the Quartet’s Schubert concerts for SFP in Herbst Theater last Saturday morning. Within an hour, he was able to fix the problems and, even fit a replacement bridge while Sandy waited. They took a minute to flip strings and made some modifications to the end-pin fitting – over an espresso, of course.
Talk about an eleventh hour fix! Sandy was expecting to have to play Saturday morning’s concert on his regular cello – which happens also to be another superb Kuttner instrument from 1980. The Egger Quartet instruments are feted this season on their 25th anniversary. Made in 1987, most have traveled the world in their own right but typically, they have been reunited in San Francisco at least once every year where they have been featured collectively in performance by an array of some of the most celebrated quartets over their first quarter century.
The Alexander String Quartet has been most fortunate to have had the privilege and pleasure of playing the instruments regularly for more than five years, making several landmark recordings on the instruments in the process. Some of the ASQ’s student assistants and quartet fellowship ensembles have also performed on the instruments during that period, including the Afiara and more recently the Hausmann Quartets, in some cases as far away as China. What a relief, if not entirely surprising, that fitting an emergency new bridge set it all right again for Saturday morning’s concert and this exciting spring season!
The rest of the ASQ members all lined up Sunday appointments with Francis – (Burritos may be involved), to make other fine tuning adjustments to these exceptional instruments before Francis heads back to Europe for another four months.