The Story of the Quartet

Original Quartet: de Kresz, Adaskin, Blackstone, Hambourg
Second Movement, Andante from the Quartet in F minor - Joseph Haydn (c.1928)| Listen

The Hart House String Quartet was formed in Toronto in 1924 when Geza de Kresz, violinist, Milton Blackstone, violist, Boris Hambourg, cellist and, a short time later Harry Adaskin, violinist, began rehearsing together. The ensemble gave its first concert in the Hart House Theatre in 1924 before an invited audience. So successful was this concert that the Massey Foundation undertook to establish the group permanently by guaranteeing the players' salaries, and as a result the Hart House String Quartet began an internationally respected career lasting until 1945 after which they gave 3 special farewell concerts.

Geza de Kresz, Milton Blackstone, Boris Hambourg, Harry Adaskin

(back) Milton Blackstone, Adolph Koldofsky; (front) Boris Hambourg, Sir Thomas Beecham, James Levey

Hambourg remained with the quartet throughout its career but the other members changed. De Kresz withdrew in 1935 and was replaced by James Levey. Adaskin left in 1938 and was succeeded by Adolph Koldofsky, followed in 1942 by Henry Milligan. Blackstone left in 1941 and was replaced by Allard de Ridder, followed by Cyril Glyde in 1944. The quartet gave 10 annual concerts at Hart House and 10 at Convocation Hall, University of Toronto.

The quartet made numerous Canadian tours, gave many concerts in the US and toured Britain and Europe twice. In the early days of broadcasting it was contracted by the CNR, and continued radio engagements into the late 1930s and early 1940s for the CBC. Its repertoire included music from classic, romantic and modern composers. It gave several first Canadian performances and premiered a few works of Canadian composers. Occasionally the quartet performed with an outstanding guest artist, such as Maurice Ravel, Sir Ernest MacMillan and Ernest Seitz. Internationally acclaimed for its sensitive and skilful playing, it enjoyed that reputation until it disbanded in 1945. Its Victor recordings are treasured by knowledgeable collectors and fortunate owners.

James Levey, Milton Blackstone, Harry Adaskin, Boris Hambourg
on tour in Texas

Adolph Koldofsky, Cyril Glyde, Boris Hambourg and Milton Blackstone with Miss Mary Pickford, when she entertained them
at "Pickfair", Beverley Hills, on their tour of the West and
Pacific Coast.


Boris Hambourg, Milton Blackstone, Geza de Kresz, Harry Adaskin
cartoon by Sotomayor

The Hart House Quartet, 1928
Harry Adaskin, 2nd violin (Storioni));
Milton Blackstone, viola (Ferdinand Galliano) ;
Geza de Kresz. 1st violin (Peter Guarneri)
Boris Hambourg, cello (Andre Guarneri)

thanks to the Public Archives of Canada

Milton Blackstone, Geza de Kresz, Mrs Vincent Massey, Vincent Massey, Boris Hambourg, Harry Adaskin

The Hart House String Quartet in 1943
James Levey, Allard de Ridder, Boris Hambourg, Henry Milligan

Geza de Kresz | Milton Blackstone | Boris Hambourg | Harry Adaskin | James Levey | Adolph Koldofsky | Henry Milligan | Allard de Ridder | Cyril Glyde
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