The Dubois String Quartet was a professional ensemble formed by cellist Jean-Baptiste Dubois that pioneered the cause of chamber music in Montréal. As Marcel Valois wrote in La Presse in 1938, “Jean-Baptiste Dubois revealed the masterworks of chamber music to several generations of Montrealers for more than 25 years.” Founded in 1910 and active until Dubois’ death in 1938, it was the longest-lived string quartet to date in Canada.
Venues and Performances
The quartet’s debut season consisted of six concerts, the first of which was on 8 November 1910 at Windsor Hall. It performed Beethoven's Quartet Opus 18, no. 2 and Schumann's Quintet, Opus 44 with the pianist Ada L. Richardson. After several seasons in the ballroom of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, the quartet performed in the Ladies' Ordinary at the Windsor Hotel beginning in 1915. In 1928, concerts moved to the Hall of the Bibliothèque St-Sulpice on Rue St. Denis (which was designated a historical monument of Québec in 1988 and became a classical music centre in 2010). The final concerts were at Tudor Hall, where the quartet made its 163rd and last appearance on 10 February 1938.
The quartet's concerts were free from the 1927–28 season on. Only in the last few years was a minimal entrance fee reinstated. The quartet gave a few concerts around the province as well as in Montréal, and played in Trois-Rivières as early as 1913.
Over the years there were many changes of personnel, with Dubois the only consistent member. The post of first violin was held in succession by Albert Chamberland (1910–20), Alexandre Debrouille (1921), Edgar Braidi (1922–37) and Maurice Onderet (1937–38). The second violins were in turn Alphonse Dansereau (1910–15), J. Alexandre Delcourt (1915), Eugène Chartier (1915–20), Edgar Braidi (1921), Lucien Sicotte (1922–23 and 1932–36), Eric Zimmerman (1923–26), René Gagnier (1936–37) and Lucien Martin (1937–38). The post of viola was held successively by Eugene Schneider (1910–20), T. Alberts (1921) and Joseph Mastrocola (1922–38).
In order to perform duo-sonatas with various quartet members, a regular pianist was engaged: George M. Brewer (1919–27) and Marie-Thérèse Paquin (1928–38). The pianists Jean Dansereau (1910–15) and Wilfrid Pelletier (1914–16) also served as frequent guests; they joined the quartet as soloists, notably for the Schumann, Brahms and Widor quintets, or as accompanists. Vocalists and string or woodwind players also appeared as guest artists in other chamber works.
The quartet played the great works of the Classical and Romantic periods, including 28 Montréal premieres, among them the Debussy Quartet in 1910. Other notable firsts included string quartets by Max Reger, Erno Dohnányi and Darius Milhaud. At its 100th concert on 10 February 1927, the quartet performed works by Franck, Debussy and Vincent d'Indy. Dubois played the Saint-Saëns cello sonata with George Brewer, while Grainger's Molly on the Shore served as an encore. In April 1928, when Ravel visited Montréal, the quartet performed his Quartet (which it had premiered in 1920) at the St-Denis Theatre.
Impresario Louis-H. Bourdon, Dubois’s stepson, managed the group's financial and administrative affairs on a voluntary basis from 1910 to 1936. Dubois made most of the quartet's artistic decisions over the years and took over the administration following Bourdon’s departure.