The Hart House String Quartet was Canada's best known chamber ensemble
first half of the 20th century
Not one of the original players was Canadian-born. The quartet's quartet
began in 1923 when Géza de Kresz, newly arrived in Toronto, began to
practise informally with the violist Milton Blackstone and the cellist
Boris Hambourg (with whom he had played in a student quartet in Belgium,
under Ysaÿe, ca 1905-8). On de Kresz's initiative a second violinist
was sought, and Harry Adaskin was chosen to fill this role.
After intensive rehearsals the group received permission from Vincent
Massey to give its first concert in the Hart House Theatre (a part of
the building given to the University of Toronto by the Massey Foundation).
The program, before an invited audience 27 Apr 1924, comprised Haydn's
Opus 76, no. 2, Beethoven's Opus 95, and the slow movement of Beethoven's
Opus 74. Critic Augustus Bridle described the playing as 'highly finished and
beautiful' (Toronto Daily Star, 28 Apr 1924), while the critic for Saturday
Night (3 May 1924) praised the group as 'the most promising organization
of its kind that Toronto has yet produced'.
The concert's success prompted the Massey Foundation to establish the
quartet on a permanent basis, guaranteeing salaries for the players
while allowing them to keep any surplus from box office receipts. It
was at this point that the group adopted the name Hart House String