Saguenay and Lafayette String QuartetsGala Evening
The Saguenay String Quartet, formerly known as the Alcan Quartet - violinists Laura Andriani and Nathalie Camus, violist Luc Beauchemin, and cellist David Ellis, has developed a reputation for excellence throughout Canada and internationally since its formation in 1989. Celebrating 25 years, the Quartet’s originality, contagious enthusiasm, unique sonority, and remarkable cohesion have all contributed to its long-term success. The ensemble’s list of accomplishments is impressive: 1000 concerts; over 100 live radio broadcasts, numerous television appearances; tours throughout North America, Europe, Asia; and a number of commissioned pieces and first performances.
The Quartet’s recent tours have led the Quartet in Italy, France, the United States, Asia and all over Canada. Its last visit to the Lanaudière Festival, accompanied by pianist Alain Lefèvre, was hailed by more than 6,000 people and welcomed by enthusiastic critics. This concert was also awarded the Opus Prize for the concert of the year by the Conseil québécois de la musique, as well as a Félix (Adisq) prize for the recording of the same André Mathieu repertoire.
Another cornerstone in the Quartet's history, is the release of its highly anticipated Complete cycle of Beethoven's 16 string quartets as part of its 25th anniversary celebrations. In addition to its performing career, the Quartet is regularly invited to teach and conduct master classes at universities, conservatories, and summer chamber music institutes both in Quebec and abroad. The Saguenay String Quartet is based in Chicoutimi, Québec, where it receives the unconditional support of the Orchestre symphonique du Saguenay.
The Lafayette String Quartet - violinists Ann Elliott-Goldschmidt and Sharon Stanis, violist Joanna Hood, and cellist Pamela Highbaugh Aloni. In July 1986, these four young musicians, based in Detroit and just beginning their professional careers, performed together for the first time as the Lafayette String Quartet. Today the LSQ continues to flourish with its original personnel. The members of the Lafayette String Quartet divide their time between entertaining audiences all over North America and Europe and teaching some of Canada’s finest young string players. Their residency at the University of Victoria is rich in local performances and community involvement. Their concerts in Canada and abroad are hailed as “Passionate, riveting, and with flawless ensemble.”
The LSQ’s extraordinary musicianship was recognized early on. Already in 1988, it was ranked among the magazine Musical America’s “Young Artists to Watch,” and in its first years it won the Grand prize at the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition and prizes at the Portsmouth (now City of London) International String Quartet Competition, and the Chicago Discovery Competition. As winners of the 1988 Cleveland String Quartet Competition, the LSQ had the opportunity to study for two years with the Cleveland Quartet at the Eastman School of Music, in Rochester, New York.
In 1991, the four women became artists-in-residence at the University of Victoria’s School of Music, in British Columbia—positions they still hold today. They received honorary doctorates from University Canada West and were honored with the inaugural Craigdarroch Award for Excellence in Artistic Expression in 2010 from the University of Victoria.
The LSQ has performed across Canada, the United States, Mexico and Europe, with concerts often allied with masterclasses and workshops. They often collaborate with other string quartets including the Saguenay (Alcan), the New Zealand, the Penderecki, the Molinari, the Emily Carr, and the Quarteto Latinoamericano.
The music of Russian-Canadian composer and conductor Airat Ichmouratov, has been performed by a wide range of ensembles and musicians in countries around the world.
Ichmouratov was named as Resident Composer 2012 at Concerts aux îles du Bic (Canada), In 2013 he was the Composer of Summer at Orford Arts Centre (Canada) and in 2015 Summer Composer at 17e edition of the Festival Classique des Hautes- Laurentides (Canada). As of 2010, Ichmouratov is the Associate Composer with Canadian Music Centre.
Born in Kazan, Russia, Airat Ichmouratov studied clarinet at the Kazan State Conservatory. In 1993, when he was appointed as Associate clarinetist of the Tatarstan’s Opera and Ballet Theatre, and of the Kazan State Symphony Orchestra, he began to extensively tour Europe. In 2000, he obtained a Master degree at the University of Montreal. He then founded the Muczynski Trio, which won first prize and the Grand Award at the National Music Festival (Canada, 2002) and First Prize at the 8th International Chamber Music Competition in Krakow (Poland, 2004). The Trio has also recorded for CBC and has given performances in Canada, China, Russia, and Europe.
In 2000, Mr. Ichmouratov joined the Klezmer group Kleztory, in which he plays the clarinet, composes, and arranges. In 2004, Kleztory recorded a very unique CD; Klezmer Music with I Musici de Montreal and Yuli Turovsky, recorded on the “Chandos” label (Great Britain). In 2007 Kleztory’s album “Nomade” won the Opus Prize. His most recent (2014) Album Arrival was nominated as Best album of the Year in the Traditional music category by ADISQ. In 2012, Kleztory won Klezmer Furth Prize at International Klezmer festival and Competition in Amsterdam, and as a result, appeared at the Furth Klezmer Festival during the following spring. With Kleztory Ichmouratov has appeared as soloist with several orchestras, including the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, the Quebec Symphony Orchestra, I Musici de Montreal, Les Violons du Roy, and Brussels Chamber Orchestra and toured intensively in Canada, USA, Brazil, Mexico, Costa Rica, Romany, Belgium, Austria, Hungary, Switzerland, Netherlands, Germany, and China.
Georgian Music review – Glorious Strings by Catherine Waffle
With the opening notes of this concert, it became apparent to the Barrie audience in the Georgian Music series that they were witnessing and hearing world-class talent! The aptly-titled concert, “Glorious Strings”, featured not one, but two of the greatest string quartets based in Canada. The Lafayette Quartet has been the quartet in residence at the University of Victoria in BC since 1991. These four talented women have performed together for more than 30 years. Today they combined forces with The Saguenay Quartet from Chicoutimi, Quebec to present a programme of String Octets – a bit of a rarity in the musical world. The Saguenay musicians have also been together for decades and their solid cohesion was evident.
String Octets present an interesting and challenging form. Unlike other ensembles, where instrument groups, such as violins, all play the same part – the octet offers 8 individual parts playing simultaneously. It allows for rich sonorities, a depth of sound and it requires that all 8 musicians be of equal, virtuosic ability. These musicians did not disappoint! They began with a little-known Swedish composer (Niels Wilhelm Gade) from the 19th century. His Octet in four movements featured subtle, moving parts beneath longer, more melodic lines from other parts in the Allegro opening. The Andantino section offered a solo melody from the first violin which was then passed to other instruments in turn. A languid and mellow mood was achieved in the minor key. The contrasting Scherzo followed with energetic, rhythmic, pizzicato effects. A brighter mood capped off this work with the Finale.
The second selection was a complex work by a 20th century composer – A. Ichmouratov (b. 1973). Subtitled, “The Letter”, this composition was based on a short novel with that title. A story of unrequited love and secrets revealed only after death in a powerful letter was realized in this most evocative and haunting piece. Mournful melodic lines were pitted against agitated sections. High/low contrasts were evident. Special effects, such as pizzicato or tremolo on harmonic notes created the mood. A hushed, breathless ending capped off the drama.
Mendelssohn’s String Octet, Op. 20, one of the crowning achievements in this genre, provided the audience with enough excitement to last indefinitely! The octet moved through the piece, from the dazzling melody on the first violin through the serene moments of the Andante, the sustained tension of the Scherzo, with its rapid passages and tightly controlled energy, to an exhilarating, climactic Presto! The cello launched into this brilliant opening and passed the melody on to each instrument from bottom to top like a ‘hot potato’! One wondered how opposites could co-exist: playing with such abandon and yet so tightly controlled. It was like dancing on a high-wire without a safety net. A thrilling experience for a most appreciative audience!
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