It was a standard setup for a string quartet recording at first glance. Microphones towered over four distinguished performers bathed in a warm orange glow inside the Shalin Liu Performance Center, the rocky coastline of Rockport MA served as their backdrop. However, those lucky enough to be in the room knew that there was a coveted piece of history on each of their music stands — the score of Leonard Bernstein’s recently rediscovered Music for String Quartet.

On February 6, four instrumentalists and the PARMA Production team gathered at the Shalin Liu to capture Bernstein’s long lost work for the first time. The piece, composed by Bernstein in 1936 at age 18 while a student at Harvard University in Cambridge, was performed by Lucia Lin, Natalie Rose Kress, Danny Kim, and Ronald Feldman, and recorded by PARMA Senior Producer Brad Michel.

From left: Danny Kim, Natalie Rose Kress, John Perkel, Brad Michel, Lucia Lin, and Ronald Feldman

Former Boston Symphony Orchestra Music Librarian John Perkel, who has steadfastly shepherded the piece from its re-discovery to production and impending release, also attended the session, and was met with — in his words — “a tremendous sense of satisfaction.”

“It was almost surreal, but also very gratifying to me that the four amazing musicians and the consummate professional, Brad Michel, were able to put together this recording,” said Perkel. “My hope is that whoever hears this recording will have some sense of a talented young composer who eventually became arguably the most famous and beloved musician of the 20th century.”

Music for String Quartet received its debut public performance at Tanglewood’s Linde Center on November 6, 2021 by the same group of performers who recently recorded the piece. Now in post production with PARMA’s award-winning audio team, the piece is expected to release in 2023 on Navona Records, and will be accompanied by the seldom-recorded duo piece Elegies for Violin and Viola by composer Aaron Copland, a musical mentor, collaborator, and dear friend of Bernstein’s.

Read the full story of Music for String Quartet’s re-discovery in this article from the Leonard Bernstein Office: