I had not yet heard of this quartet (then famous at their Philadelphia alma mater, the Curtis Institute of Music), but I was glad to hear that clarinetist John Russo, CEO of CRS Records, had engaged an excellent quartet to record my piece.
They were then known as "The Old City Quartet." We had a few telephone conversations regarding the piece; and, when I said,"You know the work is polyphonic, written in four keys!" My friend Milena, the mega-talented violist of the ensemble, responded: "We knew that!" And at that point I realized I was on board with some very special musicians.
I regret to this day that I did not make the trip to Philadelphia to rehearse and work with them on the piece. It was on a teaching day; and I never miss them. My presence could not have improved their performance, however. They were amazing, and it is a day I will never forget.
A small crowd huddled in a church outside of Philadelphia on that Sunday afternoon, anticipating the live program of a soon-to-be-released CD. The quartet was slightly late, and Milena called me to say they were on the way. When they arrived I showed them in, and offered them a room where they could relax after the drive, tune, and warm up. Hurrying with me into the hall, Milena said, "That's okay, we're good."
And they immediately, soundlessly, took the stage, unpacked their instruments, and proceeded to flawlessly perform two premieres of contemporary works and Mozart's clarinet quintet, featuring the aforementioned John Russo at the helm -- without a break!
The group's consummate attention to detail; their innate talent and ensemble rapport stunned me.. for lack of a better word. All the hard work over months bringing the work to life, all the countless hours were now repaid in full; and I will always be grateful for their work and that day!