Formed in 2005, Chiaroscuro Quartet comprises violinists Alina Ibragimova (Russia) and Pablo Hernán Benedí (Spain), the Swedish violist Emilie Hörnlund and cellist Claire Thirion from France. Dubbed ‘a trailblazer for the authentic performance of High Classical chamber music’ in Gramophone, this international ensemble performs music of the Classical and early Romantic periods on gut strings and with historical bows. The quartet’s unique sound – described in The Observer as ‘a shock to the ears of the best kind’ – is highly acclaimed by audiences and critics all over Europe.
Their growing discography includes recordings of music by Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn and Haydn. Recent releases include Schubert ‘Death and the Maiden’ & String Quartet, D.173 and Haydn Op.76. Future releases include Beethoven Op.18 and Mozart ‘Prussian’ Quartets.
Chiaroscuro Quartet was a prize-winner of the German Förderpreis Deutschlandfunk/Musikfest Bremen in 2013 and received Germany’s most prestigious CD award, the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik in 2015 for their recording of Mozart’s Quartet in D minor, K. 421 and Mendelssohn’s Second String Quartet in A minor, Op. 13. Among the ensemble’s chamber music partners are renowned artists such as Kristian Bezuidenhout, Trevor Pinnock, Jonathan Cohen, Cedric Tiberghien, Nicolas Baldeyrou, Chen Halevi, Malcolm Bilson, Christian Poltera and Christophe Coin.
Recent engagements included their enthusiastically received debut concerts at Vienna Konzerthaus and Philharmonie Warsaw, their first US tour and a return visit to Japan. Other highlights have taken the ensemble to Edinburgh International Festival, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, London’s Wigmore Hall, Auditorio Nacional de Música Madrid, Music Festival Grafenegg, The Sage Gateshead, Auditorium du Louvre Paris, Gulbenkian Foundation Lisbon, West Cork Festival and Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh for a residency.
In the 20/21 season, Chiaroscuro Quartet give concerts in the UK, including Wigmore Hall, King’s Place, a residency at Turner Sims and appear at numerous other venues and festivals including Boulez Saal & Konzerthaus Berlin, Beethovenfest Bonn, Helsinki, Japan, China and North America. Since 2009, Chiaroscuro Quartet have been artist-in-residence in Port-Royal-des-Champs.
Chiaroscuro Quartet are grateful to Jumpstart Jr Foundation for the kind loan of the 1570 Andrea Amati violin.
The Heath Quartet formed in 2002 at the Royal Northern College of Music. There were selected for representation by YCAT, awarded a Borletti-Buitoni Special Ensemble Scholarship and in 2012 won the Ensemble Prize at the Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern where they are now regular visitors. In 2016 they won the Gramophone Chamber Award for their recording of the complete string quartets of Sir Michael Tippett, and in May 2013 became the first ensemble in fifteen years to win the prestigious Royal Philharmonic Society’s Young Artists Award.
Their award-winning release of the Tippett was followed by two discs recorded for the Harmonia Mundi/PIAS label featuring Tchaikovsky’s first and third quartets (November 2016) and the complete Bartók quartets (June 2017), the latter of which won the 2017 Limelight Chamber Music Award and was nominaed for the 2018 Gramophone Chamber Music Award – both projects were part-funded by the Quartet’s Borletti-Buitoni Trust Special Ensemble Scholarship 2011.
During the 2019/20 season the quartet will perform a complete Beethoven quartet cycle over the course of three return visits to Middlebury College in Vermont as part of an ongoing residency. Beethoven also features in their debut at the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, returns to Wigmore Hall and Handelsbeurs Ghent as well as in various appearances throughout the UK. The music of the Second Viennese School is also high on their agenda this season, with works by Berg, Webern and Schoenberg appearing on their forthcoming recording programme. Longtime artistic collaborator Carolyn Sampson (soprano) joins them on the recording, as well as in recital for their debut at Palau de la Musica Catalana in Barcelona.
Founded in 1994 by Austrian violinist and conductor Thomas Zehetmair, the Zehetmair Quartet ranks among the world’s finest string quartets.
Highlights of previous seasons include a complete Schumann Cycle at Wigmore Hall, the premiere of Heinz Holliger’s string quartet, commissioned by Köln Musik for the Zehetmair Quartet; performances at major venues and festivals throughout Europe including Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Salzburg Festival, Hong Kong Arts Festival, Edinburgh International Festival, Palau de la Musica Barcelona, Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival and a performance at Elliot Carter’s 100th birthday commemoration in New York.
Their discography for ECM is varied and highly acclaimed, including Schumann Quartet (Gramophone Record of the Year), Hindemith and Bartok (“playing of huge finesse in both pieces” – The Sunday Times, “a real benchmark” The Guardian) and Holliger, Hartmann and Beethoven; demonstrating their prowess in mainstream repertoire as well as the challenging works of the twentieth century. Their next highly anticipated release for ECM will be the Brahms Quartets.
In November 2014, the Zehetmair Quartet was awarded the Paul Hindemith Prize by the city of Hanau for outstanding musical achievement.