The Juilliard String Quartet - from left, Ronald Copes, Joel Krosnick, Joseph Lin and Samuel Rhodes - kicks off the 65th season of the Arizona Friends of Chamber Music.


Arizona Friends of Chamber Music kicks off its historic 65th season on Tuesday with the Juilliard String Quartet.

A look at the Friends by the numbers bears out its history:

• 65 seasons.

• 20 years presenting its Tucson Winter Chamber Music Festival.

• 50 commissioned works and counting: The group presents No. 50 with the Prazak Quartet on Nov. 7 and will premier three others this season.

"It's extremely impressive. There is nobody else to my knowledge who commissions more new works of chamber music than we do," says Friends President Jean-Paul Bierny.

The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center is on par with the Friends, but "the big difference is all of ours have essentially been sponsored by individuals in our audience," notes Bierny. "Lincoln Center gets subsidies from the National Endowment for the Arts and foundations."

You can throw Bierny into the mix of Arizona Friends' history, as well. For 35 years he has sat at the helm. He will step down after this season.

"Thirty-five years is a long time, and an organization like this needs new blood, new ideas," said the 74-year-old retired radiologist. "And it's time for me to do something else."

Bierny will remain on the group's board.

Arizona Friends has a national reputation for bringing in some of the world's most renowned chamber groups to perform works that go beyond the standard chamber literature.

Meanwhile, to mark the anniversary season, Arizona Friends is flirting with a new initiative that Bierny hopes will bring younger audiences to the concerts. Two of its evening concerts this year will include matinee performances with different programs. The first is this week's season opener with the Juilliard, which will perform on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday evening. Bierny said he has reached out to local middle and high schools to encourage them to bring their students.

"We found out that a weekday matinee is more attractive and practical for students than a Sunday afternoon matinee," he said.

The other extra matinee comes with the Harlem Quartet in February.

Bierny can think of no better group to launch the initiative than the Juilliard, which features first violinist Joseph Lin. Lin has long ties with the Friends, having played his first concert in Tucson with the Piano and Friends series. He returned the following year as a musician with the Winter Chamber Music Festival and has returned for the four festivals since.

If you go

• What: Juilliard String Quartet in concert.

• Presented by: Arizona Friends of Chamber Music.

• When: 3 p.m. Tuesday and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

• Where: Leo Rich Theatre, 260 S. Church Ave.

• Tickets: $30 adults, $10 students at the door or online at

• Programs:

Tuesday - Beethoven's String Quartet in A Minor, String Quartet in B-flat Major and Grosse Fuge.

Wednesday - Mozart's String Quartet in D major; Carter's String Quartet No. 5' and Beethoven's String Quartet in C-sharp Minor.

About the Juilliard String Quartet

We get to see longtime Juilliard violist Samuel Rhodes, who announced he will leave the group next July after 44 seasons. Roger Tapping will replace Rhodes in September 2013.

The Juilliard was founded at the Juilliard School in 1946 and quickly established a reputation for featuring some of the finest chamber musicians in the country playing the hallmarks of quartet literature.

The group tours worldwide. The current lineup includes longtime Arizona Friends of Chamber Music Festival musician Joseph Lin, who joined the quartet as its first violinist last year; cellist Joel Krosnick, who has been with the group since 1974; and violinist Ronald Copes, who came on board in 1997. The quartet has more than 100 recordings to its credit, making it one of the most widely recorded string quartets of all time.