About Peter Kamnitzer
The young string players Peter Kamnitzer, Henry Meyer, and Walter Levin met at the Juilliard School in New York City in the late '40s, and all had something terribly important in common. The three classical musicians were born just a year apart from each other -- Kamnitzer in 1922, Meyer in 1923, and Levin the following year -- and all three had been run out of their native Germany by the Nazi regime. Both Levin and Kamnitzer were able to immigrate out of the country before coming to serious harm, while Meyer unfortunately spent years of his life in various concentration camps. The three formed the La Salle Quartet in 1949 while still at Juilliard, and while the group could hardly be accused of wearing its political background on it sleeves it is not a stretch to feel that the group's performances achieved a certain intensity by nature of this shared background. The other members of the ensemble were of American descent, including cellist Lee Fiser and his 1975 replacement, Jack Kirstein. The members of the ensemble were still in school when the group began, but five years had established enough of a reputation to embark on its first European tour. During nearly 40 years of activity, La Salle became particularly known for its recordings of Beethoven as well as the Viennese school of Schoenberg, Zemlinsky, Berg, and Webern. While these latter names might already send conservative audience members scrambling for the aisles, La Salle hardly stopped there. Like his playing partners, Kamnitzer was particularly enthusiastic about contemporary music and pushed to perform new works by Apostel, Pousseur, Ligeti, Kagel, Penderecki, Cage, and Lutoslawski. Often these compositions were created specifically for the La Salle Quartet. One key element in the enduring success of the group was its ability to establish residencies at colleges and the enthusiasm the individual members had for teaching. The group was on faculty at Colorado College for the first two years of its existence, then established a lengthy residency at the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music. The members of the group remained at this college when the La Salle Quartet finally decided to halt its touring activities in 1988. Kamnitzer taught both violin and viola as well as specializing in chamber music and music history. His students included the jazz and bluegrass violinist Paul Patterson.