Front, Alla Aranovskaya; rear from left, Leonid Shukayev, Boris Vayner and Evgeny Zvonnikov. Photo courtesy of St. Petersburg String Quartet.
The St. Petersburg String Quartet, one of the world’s most esteemed chamber ensembles, will perform in Idyllwild for the first time at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7, in Stephens Recital Hall on the Idyllwild Arts campus. Given the fame of the quartet and limited seating at Stephens, early arrival is recommended for this free event.

Founded as the Leningrad String Quartet in 1985 by violinist Alla Aranovskaya and cellist Leonid Shukayev, the quartet tours internationally and divides its time between Russia and the United States. From 1997 to 2003, the quartet was in residence at the prestigious Oberlin College Conservatory of Music in Ohio. Then, beginning in June 2010, the quartet began its second U.S. residency at Wichita State University School of Music in Kansas. In the intervening years it toured internationally. Both Aranovskaya and Shukayev hold assistant professorships at Wichita State. The quartet is a major teaching presence at the university’s School of Music, as well as being a valued part of the musical life of the community.

It is this devotion to and connection with education that impelled Aranovskaya in 2009 to found the St. Petersburg International Music Academy for the purpose of mentoring promising young musicians in the United States and Mexico. Aronovskaya began her musical education at the age of 2-1/2, something not uncommon in the then Soviet Union, where artistic talent was a prized societal value and young talent was sought and recruited. Aranovskaya hopes to expand the Music Academy to a year-round pilot program with an aim to introducing American children to the Russian system’s emphasis on early music education for children who show exceptional promise at an early age.

In addition to Aronovskaya and Shukayev, the St. Petersburg String Quartet features Boris Vayner on viola and Evgeny Zvonnikov on second violin. Honored with a Grammy nomination and “Best Record” honors in both Stereo Review and Gramophone magazines, the quartet has also won major international prizes in Australia, Japan, Italy and the Soviet Union.

At Friday’s performance, the quartet will present a program of Franz Schubert’s String Quartet No. 14 in D minor known as “Death and the Maiden,” Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 11 in F minor, known as the “Quartetto Serioso” and Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 1 in C major.