Schubert Club was launched on an autumn afternoon in 1882. Marion Ramsey Furness, daughter of Governor Alexander Ramsey, along with some music-loving friends, formed a club they called “The Ladies Musicale,” which became Minnesota’s earliest recital-presenting organization. The first meetings were social gatherings for women, with Club members often providing musical counterpoint— but soon they began to organize concerts, lectures and study groups. Before long they changed the name of the group to honor Franz Schubert (who had lived some fifty years before) and the goal to establish a high standard of musical performance in Saint Paul became their mission.
In those early years, solo recitals were the Schubert Club’s primary interest. In 1893, the group added the International Artist Series to its programs, and the women began presenting some of the finest artists of the day, beginning with the renowned German pianist Adele Aus der Ohe who played at Ford Music Hall at Fifth, which was located at 5th St. and St. Peter Street in downtown Saint Paul, that same year. Before the turn of the century, such celebrated artists as Josef Hofmann and Xaver Scharwenka had played recitals in Saint Paul as part of the International Artist Series.
Throughout Schubert Club’s history, the group made it a priority to present very accomplished but lesser known emerging artists among the recitals of the established stars. This led to the debuts in Saint Paul of Louise Homer in 1902, Vladimir Horowitz in 1928, Isaac Stern in 1943, Leontyne Price in 1961, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in 1955, Mstislav Rostropovich in 1963, and Cecilia Bartoli in 1996.
Now, almost 140 years later, Schubert Club has secured a prominent place in the history of musical organizations. It is one of the oldest arts organizations in the country, predated by among a very few, the New York Philharmonic and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. As part of its International Artist Series, the Schubert Club has brought virtually all of the world’s great recitalists to the Saint Paul stage—Jascha Heifetz, Myra Hess, Artur Rubinstein, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, and Bryn Terfel, to name only a few. Vladimir Horowitz, Robert Casadesus, Isaac Stern, Yo-Yo Ma and Beverly Sills have each appeared under its sponsorship four times or more. More recent highlights include such stellar artists as Renée Fleming, Joshua Bell, Alfred Brendel, Lang Lang, and Anne-Sophie Mutter.
In July 2010, the chamber music-focused Music in the Park Series merged with Schubert Club. Founded in 1979 by Julie Himmelstrup, the Music in the Park Series presents some of the finest chamber music ensembles and musicians from Minnesota and around the world. The marriage of these two organizations continues the tradition of excellent music in intimate concert settings.
In 2014, Schubert Club introduced Schubert Club Mix, its convention-breaking performance series in nontraditional venues. Additional current series include free weekly lunchtime Courtroom Concerts series in downtown St. Paul, and Accordo, a string collective made up of current and former musicians from the Minnesota Orchestra and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.
The strength of Schubert Club is due in no small part to the continuing devotion of music lovers, audience members, friends and foundations. The organization remains relevant and vibrant, a source of renewal and pride for the Twin Cities classical music community.