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Liebesfreud: Bio

Geoffrey Michaels & Philip Kates, violins ~ David Giles, viola ~ Charles Forbes, cello

The Philadelphia-based Liebesfreud is an ensemble devoted primarily to the performance of great literature for the string quartet. The name, meaning Love's Joy, is best known as that of a heartfelt piece by beloved violinist Fritz Kreisler. The main focus of Liebesfreud's work is the "heart" of the classical repertoire, such as is offered in programs of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert in the Kimmel Center's "Free in the Plaza" series, on our "Last Fridays" series at the Philadelphia Art Alliance and, since 2003, in the ensemble's annual "Beethoven's Birthday" celebrations at the Trinity Center for Urban Life.

Liebesfreud has also presented programs of African-American, French, Italian, Jewish and Russian composers. A special honor, in 2003, was the invitation to provide music for Philadelphia's Annual Holocaust Memorial Ceremony in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, at which we offered works of Polish writers of that time. 

Since 2006, Liebesfreud has presented its own "Last Fridays" series. The first program was a gala concert commemorating Mozart's 250th Birthday! This became the first in a series of free programs, 84 of which have been offered to date. We have been thrilled and enriched by collaborations with some of the finest artists in the area including many prominent players of the Philadelphia Orchestra: Ronald Reuben, Ricardo Morales, Sam Caviezel and Socrates Villegas (clarinet), Mark Gigliotti, (bassoon), Jennifer Montone and Shelley Showers (horn), Dara Morales (violin), Renard Edwards (viola), Jason DePue (violin & viola), Hai-Ye Ni and Efe Baltacigil (cello), Harold Robinson and Rob Kesselman (bass), and with that venerable ensemble's former Music Director, Christoph Eschenbach at the piano.  

Other highlights included participation in the Kimmel Center's Summer Solstice Celebration, the presenting of a series of open rehearsals for Elderhostel (now Exploritas), four live performances on WRTI radio and twice in "Postlude" concerts for the Philadelphia Orchestra in Verizon Hall and performance of May-Tchi Chen's 'Sonic Mandala' with Wu Man at the Taipei Theater in New York. 

Among Liebesfreud's popular "command" performances are "house concerts". These private events, usually attended by 25 - 75 people, are flexible in terms of length and formality, can include spoken commentary and always offer an opportunity to discuss the program (or music and life in general!) with the musicians afterward.

In addition to public and private concert events, Liebesfreud takes an active role in community outreach and education with performances and workshops at community centers, schools, hospitals and soup kitchens.  In observance of the 200th anniversary of Mendelssohn's birth [February 2009] we invited a quartet of graduate students from Temple University to join us in study, preparation and performance of that composer's youthful, sparkling and masterful Octet.  We then offered this experience to four young musicians that summer at the Philadelphia International Music Festival, where we have been exhilarated and pleased to continue our association (seven years) as Quartet-in-Residence.

Liebesfreud's compact disc, "Selected Shorts, Neglected Gems for String Quartet", includes single and two movement works by Schubert, Rachmaninoff, Grieg, Mendelssohn, Wolf and Rimsky-Korsakov. (Please click on "Music" tab - scroll to composer names - to read Geoffrey Michaels' scintillating program notes.)

Hear Liebesfreud live next on October 27th at the Philadelphia Art Alliance.
(details on the calendar page)

THE ARTISTS .

. Geoffrey Michaels, a graduate of Philadelphia's prestigious Curtis Institute, was born in Western Australia and began playing the violin at the age of five.  At fourteen, he became the youngest performer ever to win the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s concerto competition, and he toured Australia as a recitalist and soloist with the major orchestras. In 1961, he was admitted to Curtis where he studied with Efrem Zimbalist and Oscar Shumsky and, while still a student, he accepted the Curtis String Quartet's invitation to become a member - a position he held until 1969. Mr. Michaels has been a prizewinner in the Tchaikovsky Competition, the Queen Elizabeth of Belgium Competition, and the Concours Jacques Thibaud in Paris.  He has won critical acclaim for solo appearances throughout Europe, North America and in his native Australia. Recent U.S. performances include Tully Hall, the Library of Congress, and the Kennedy Center and have featured solo works by Berg, Kurt Weill, Arvo Part and Alfred Schnittke.  His performance of Schnittke’s Concerto Grosso, a U.S. premiere, was broadcast here and in the former Soviet Union. An experienced teacher of violin, viola and chamber music, Geoffrey Michaels has maintained lengthy affiliations with the New School of Music (now part of Temple University), Princeton University, and Swarthmore College.  He has also served as professor at Florida State University and at the University of British Columbia.  He continues to perform extensively in North America and overseas, with recent tours in Australia, Spain, and the U.K.

.. Philip Kates began violin lessons before the age of three with his father, Henry Kates.  Subsequent teachers included Jascha Brodsky of the Curtis Quartet, Sally Thomas (Juilliard School), and Norman Carol (concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra).  Studies continued on viola with Joseph dePasquale (Philadelphia Orchestra principal viola) and in chamber music with Norbert Brainin, Isadore Cohen, Felix Galimir, Josef Gingold, Alexander Schneider, Vladimir Sokoloff, Susan Starr, Arnold Steinhardt, Isaac Stern and Michael Tree. Mr. Kates has been a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra since 1981, and until 2006 concurrently a frequent Guest Concertmaster with Peter Nero and the Philly Pops and of the Orchestra Society of Philadelphia, with which he made nearly annual solo appearances. He is also a former chair of the Orchestra Musicians' Education Committee. Recital and chamber music performances have been many and varied, including the Philadelphia premier, in 1980, of the Delius String Quartet, the quartet performance, in 1990, for the Andre Sakharov memorial at the New York Public Library, first Philadelphia performance, in 1997, of the Louis Gruenberg sonata (violin and piano) at the Philadelphia Public Library, the first Philadelphia Orchestra Chamber Series performances, in 2001, of the Fritz Kreisler String Quartet and in 2006 of the Enescu Octet and, in 2002, the Philadelphia premier of the Delius Violin Concerto. Since 2009, he has organized and performed in concert on the annual summer chamber music series at the Marcella Sembrich Opera Museum in Bolton Landing, New York. Mr. Kates is also a composer of several dozen works for voice, solo violin and various chamber groupings, and he leads an active life in community service, raising funds for numerous humanitarian charities and other organizations.  Since 1990 he has performed as solo violinist at Philadelphia’s annual Holocaust Memorial Observance Ceremony, and since 1977 he has organized and performed at Thanksgiving and Christmastime in Philadelphia-area nursing homes, hospices and soup kitchens. In June, 2008 (and again in 2010 and 2013), Phil visited earthquake regions in China and played for children there. (Read one story on the 'News' page.) As an educator, Mr. Kates has been guest lecturer for Temple University, Philadelphia Elderhostel and the Philadelphia Orchestra Volunteer Committees' Lecture/Luncheon series and at the Orchestra's pre-concert talks both in Philadelphia and Saratoga Springs, New York. He teaches violin and chamber music privately and since 2003 for the Philadelphia International Music Festival in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. He has also presented programs to children in schools throughout the United States and in conjunction with tours of the Philadelphia Orchestra to Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, England, Wales, Poland, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, Viet Nam and China. (A brief scene from his visit to a school for autistic children in London was included - as chapter 13 - in the 2004 film "Music From The Inside Out".) For his dedication to enriching the lives of children with music, Mr. Kates was recently honored by a very generous gift from Hilarie and Mitchell Morgan endowing his chair in the Philadelphia Orchestra.

... David Giles graduated from Interlochen Arts Academy (where he spent his last two years of high school) and then went on to Indiana University, where he studied viola with David Dawson and Abraham Skernick, and chamber music with Fritz Magg and Georgy Sebok.  From 1979 to 1982 he was a member of the Florida Orchestra, playing co-principal viola for the 1980-81 season.  While there, he became a founding member of Tampa Musica Viva Chamber Players, whose NPR and PBS performances, as well as those at the University of Tampa and in St. Petersburg, received critical and audience acclaim. A Philadelphian for more than twenty-five years, David’s work has included performances with the Pennsylvania Pro Musica, Orchestra 2001, Peter Nero and the Philly Pops and Choral Arts Society, among many others.  He has performed in premiers of works by Rands, Fakete, Schnittke and others. He maintains an active studio, teaching privately and at Philadelphia's venerable Settlement Music School.

.... Charles Forbes grew up in Cambridge, Massachusettes, and received degrees from Harvard College and Manhattan School of Music.  His principal cello teachers were Maurice Eisenberg and Bernard Greenhouse.  He also studied cello with Luigi Silva and Pablo Casals, chamber music with Leonard Shure, and conducting with Jonel Perlea. His orchestra life has included playing principal cello with the American Symphony under Leopold Stokowski, the Buffalo Philharmonic, the Princeton Chamber Orchestra, the Springfield Symphony, and the Vermont Symphony. Mr. Forbes has given four solo recitals at Carnegie Recital Hall, and he played for 30 years with the New York Camerata, a chamber group with which he toured widely and recorded several discs.  That group commissioned many new works from American composers, including George Crumb’s “Voice of the Whale”, and it was the resident ensemble with the New York-based Affiliate Artists in Wisconsin and Alabama for four seasons.  He has also played with the Chancellor and Windsor (Vermont) String Quartets, and in Philadelphia with the Network for New Music, Relache, the Philadelphia Camerata and Orchestra 2001. Charles Forbes has been on the faculties of Smith, Amherst and Mt. Holyoke colleges, Exeter Academy, the Manhattan School of Music, and the University of Delaware.  He has been music director of the Princeton Chamber Music Play Week since its establishment more than 25 years ago.  He currently lives in Langhorne, PA, plays with Orchestra 2001 and the Bucks County Symphony (principal), and teaches privately and at the Settlement Music School.

THE INSTRUMENTS ~ ~ ~ ~ Some may be curious about the beautiful instruments heard on the recording. Geoffrey plays a 1733 Carlo Bergonzi violin made in Cremona, Italy. Phil plays a copy of the "Kreisler" Guarnerius del Gesu made in 1970 by Sergio Peresson (born in Udine, Italy). We all love the sound Dave elicits from his viola even though noone knows what it is! (It's a copy of an old Italian, of course!) Charlie plays on a cello made in Rome, Italy by David Tecchler in 1713.