In the 1980s, Gregory Teperman was forced to quit his job as a violinist in a prominent Soviet orchestra to immigrate to the United States.
Igor Szwec came to Philadelphia from Austria in 1950 with his parents, who had met in the chaos of World War II Europe.
Though they took different journeys to America, the two men, both accomplished violinists and friends who live just blocks from each other in Somerton, teamed up in 2011 to join composer Peter Nocella’s Meiravi Quartet.
After a two-year hiatus, the group, which also includes cellist Vivian Barton Dozer, is back and will be performing a free concert Sept. 21 in Wayne.
Szwec said his father was injured in battle during the war after being forced to join the German army as a teenager following the Nazi occupation of Ukraine. His father met his mother, a Slovenian Red Cross volunteer, after fleeing the German forces, Szwec said.
The family came to the United States in May 1950, when Szwec was 3, after a five-year struggle to board a boat across the Atlantic. They settled in a Ukrainian neighborhood in North Philadelphia
“They just had me and one suitcase,” said Szwec, 72, who attended Central and Olney high schools.
Teperman, 64, didn’t arrive in Philadelphia until more than 30 years later when he was an adult with his own family. He grew up in Moldova, a former Soviet republic, and was a member of the Moldova Philharmonic Orchestra.
He wanted to join his sister and other relatives in Northeast Philadelphia, but it was difficult.
“They were giving us all kinds of problems with the paperwork,” Teperman said. “Basically, what they told me was that if you want to receive everything as far as paperwork…you would have to resign from the orchestra. So that’s what I had to do.”
Restarting his musical career in the United States wasn’t easy. He worked odd jobs like delivering milk at 4 a.m. and dropping off phone books to support his family. All the while, he kept playing violin in the family’s second-floor apartment on Knorr Street.
Teperman says he caught a break when he won an audition to perform with the Concerto Soloists, now called the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, alongside world-renowned dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov at the Mann Center.
“I basically got lucky,” said Teperman, who teaches classes at Archbishop Ryan and other schools. “That job meant a lot to me.”
Music lovers will have the chance to see Szwec and Teperman perform with the Meiravi Quartet at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21, at Wayne Presbyterian Church, 125 E. Lancaster Ave.
The group will be performing an arrangement of Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story, a quartet by Russian composer Reinhold Gliere and a piece written by Nocella called Summer Journal.
“West Side Story, Bernstein is basically a genius. People love hearing it,” Teperman said. “Peter’s quartet is something that nobody has ever heard before, so it’s basically a premiere.”
In addition, the quartet will be doing a song from an opera Nocella is in the process of writing called Grynszpan. It’s about how the assassination of a German diplomat in 1938 served as a pretext for Kristallnacht, the name given to violent riots against Jewish people in November of that year.
“When you know the background… the music is incredibly evocative,” Szwec said. “You really feel the marching of the Nazis, the doom, sort of in the sound.”
For more information on the concert, visit waynepres.org/music or call 610-688-8700. ••
Jack Tomczuk can be reached at email@example.com.