Three members of the group, who have declared bankruptcy, will soon give up their instruments and homes in order to pay a $611,000 judgment to the fourth member, violinist David Ehrlich.
The quartet was founded in 1974 by cellist Clyde Shaw and three other musicians; within five years, it had won a series of competitions and been hired as quartet in residence at Virginia Tech. Violist Doris Lederer, Shaw's wife, joined in 1976; Ehrlich joined in 1984 as first violinist; and second violinist Akemi Takayama replaced Davis Salness in 1997.
Starting several years after Ehrlich's arrival, according to the both papers, conflicts began to develop between him and the other members of the group. In 2000, an argument over expenses led Ehrlich to request that the group go into counseling and to threaten legal action; days later, the other three members ejected him from the group.
Ehrlich filed suit against the remaining members, claiming that he had been fired without sufficient notice or cause, and obtained an injunction preventing them from performing as the Audubon Quartet. In late 2001, a Pennsylvania court ruled in Ehrlich's favor, awarding him $611,000 (the amount reflected, in part, a estimate of Ehrlich's share of the worth of the corporation that the quartet formed in 1979).
The judge also found that the remaining members could continue to perform as the Audubon Quartet, and they later replaced Ehrlich with violinist Ellen Jewett. But the group had already lost its position at Virginia Tech and has never returned to its former prominence "We're radioactive," Shaw told the New York Times.