Comprised of violinists Ann Elliott-Goldschmid and Sharon Stanis, violist Joanna Hood, and cellist Pamela Highbaugh Aloni, The Lafayette String Quartet (LSQ) announced their unanimous decision to retire from performing in August 2023.
As the only all-female ensemble in the world with all four original members, they won multiple awards in their early years — including the Grand prize at the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition and prizes at the Portsmouth International String Quartet Competition and the Chicago Discovery Competition. As winners of the 1988 Cleveland String Quartet Competition, the LSQ studied with the Cleveland Quartet at the Eastman School of Music.
Among their other musical mentors were the Amadeus and the Alban Berg Quartets and Russian violinist Rostislav Dubinsky, founder of the Borodin Quartet, who worked directly with composer Dmitri Shostakovich.
In 1991, the four women became artists-in-residence at the University of Victoria’s School of Music, in British Columbia, Canada, where they taught and performed. Having received honorary doctorates from University Canada West, they were also honored with the inaugural Craigdarroch Award for Excellence in Artistic Expression from the University of Victoria.
Along with performing the complete Beethoven cycle of string quartets and the full Mozart quartets and quintet cycles, the group also presented the chronological cycle of Shostakovich’s 15 string quartets over a series of five concerts at UVic in 2017.
In 2005, the LSQ also created the annual Lafayette Health Awareness Series to provide expert information on various health topics ranging from COVID-19, aging, brain health, and breast cancer — the latter of which inspired the series, following a 2001 diagnosis and treatment for one of its members.
In their final season, the LSQ will record five new commissions by female composers, among other performance projects.
“In addition to their internationally acclaimed performance history, the quartet has transformed the teaching of chamber music at UVic, training and mentoring a generation of over 400 string musicians and developing the master’s of music in string quartet performance — the only program of its kind in Canada,” Vice Provost Susan Lewis, who as former dean of UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts.
“We just thought we’d do this for two or three years, but here we are over 35 years later — and what an experience we’ve had,” says Highbaugh Aloni. “But great things have to stop at some point, and this feels like the natural time to finish.”
“We could never have dreamed of this adventure. We’ve really had a great run,” she added.