Schubert Club was launched on an autumn afternoon late in the year 1882. Marion Ramsey Furness, daughter of Governor Alexander Ramsey, along with some music-loving friends, formed a club they called “The Ladies Musicale,” thus creating Minnesota’s earliest recital-presenting organization. While the first meetings were social gatherings for women who busied themselves with fancy work—with Club members often providing musical counterpoint—concerts, lectures and study groups were soon organized. Before long the name was changed to honor Franz Schubert (who had lived some fifty years before) and the goal to establish a high standard of musical excellence in Saint Paul became their mission. In those early years solo recitals were the immediate major interest for this musical organization. In 1893, the International Artist Series was added 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 (Fifth and St. Peter Streets) that same year. Before the turn of the century such celebrated artists as Josef Hofmann and Xaver Scharwenka had played recitals in Saint Paul on this Series.
Throughout its history, efforts were made to present a very accomplished but lesser known emerging artist among the recitals of the established stars. This policy of what respected Saint Paul music critic John Harvey called “venturesome conservatism” 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, over 135 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. Highlights from the twenty-first century include such stellar artists as Renée Fleming, Joshua Bell, Alfred Brendel, Lang Lang, and Anne-Sophie Mutter.
In July 2010, Minnesota chamber music organization Music in the Park Series merged with Schubert Club. Founded in 1978 by Julie Himmelstrup who continues to serve as artistic director, the Series is now part of the Schubert Club, presenting the finest chamber music ensembles 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, Accordo, and the Hill House Chamber Players.
The strength of the Schubert Club is due in no small part to the continuing devotion of music lovers, audience members, friends and foundations. This venerable organization remains strong and competitive, a source of renewal and pride for the Twin Cities classical music community. As we move deeper into the twenty-first century, Schubert Club reaffirms its mission to promote the art of music—particularly recital music, through performance, education and museum programs—and to maintain a high standard of excellence.