The Pro Arte Quartet continues to maintain an 85-year tradition of dedication to classical and contemporary string chamber music. In addition to their residency at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where duties range from formal concerts and radio broadcasts to a variety of educational activities, the quartet tours nationally and internationally, often presenting premieres of new works, many of which are written for the ensemble.
Founded in 1912 by violinist Alphonse Onnou, the Pro Arte Quartet became the Court Quartet to Queen Elizabeth of Belgium. Its world reputation blossomed in 1919 when the Quartet began the first of many tours and earned such acclaim that composers, notably Milhaud, Honegger and Bartok, gave the ensemble new works to introduce. By 1926, the Quartet made its debut in New York and toured American cities. They returned for 30 tours to the United States, often under the auspices of Mrs. Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, noted patron of chamber music. Their first visit to Madison was in 1938. Two years later, the musicians were stranded in the United States by the outbreak of World War II and accepted a residency at the UW-Madison, the first such residency in a major American university. Today, the Pro Arte functions as a resource for the university and the state.