Zemlinsky

String quartet

After 25 years, the Zemlinsky Quartet (taking a new name in 2005, with only one personal change in 1999) developed into one of the leading ensembles of its generation. With more than 1200 concerts, more than 20 CDs, more than 250 chamber music works in the repertoire, the ensemble represents now the strong Czech string quartet tradition all over the world. In the spring of 2020, to celebrate its 25 years of existence, the Zemlinsky Quartet will repeat the same concert in Prague as it happened in April 1995. Therefore, the ensemble also offers this concert to everyone who would be willling to include the celebration of 25 years of the quartet in their concert series or festival.

While students at the Prague Conservatory and the Academy of Performing Arts Prague, the ensemble was coached by members of renowned Czech string quartets including the Talich, Prague, Kocian and Pražák Quartets. The ensemble also took part in several master classes including ProQuartet, in France and Sommerakademie in Reichenau, Austria where they were awarded First Prize for the best interpretation of a work by Janáček. From 2005 to 2008, the quartet studied with Walter Levin, the first violinist of LaSalle Quartet. Another important mentor has been Josef Klusoň, the violist of the Pražák Quartet.

Zemlinsky Quartet is named after the Austrian composer, conductor and teacher Alexander Zemlinsky (1871-1942), whose enormous contribution to Czech, German and Jewish culture during his 16-year stay in Prague was underestimated for decades. His four string quartets (the second one being dedicated to his student and brother-in-law Arnold Schönberg) belong to the basic repertoire of the ensemble. Since 2005, the quartet has maintained a special relationship with the Alexander Zemlinsky Foundation in Vienna. They have been the recipient of the Alexander Zemlinsky Advancement Award, marking only the fourth time the prize has been awarded by the board of the Alexander Zemlinsky Foundation that includes Christoph von Dohnányi and James Levine.

The quartet has won the 1st Grand Prize in the Bordeaux International String Quartet Competition (2010). It also enjoyed a string of top prizes in the Banff International String Quartet Competition (2007), Prague Spring International Music Competition (2005) and London International String Quartet Competition (2006), where it was also awarded the Audience Prize. In the season 2016/17, Zemlinsky Quartet was appointed as the residential ensemble of the Czech Chamber Music Society.

The Zemlinsky Quartet performs regularly in the Czech Republic and abroad. Recent major appearances of the Zemlinsky Quartet include London’s Wigmore Hall, Cité de la Musique in Paris, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Library of Congress, Place des Arts in Montreal, Prague Spring Festival, and their New York debut on Schneider/New School Concerts Series. Their vast repertoire contains more than 200 works ranging from Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms to works by contemporary composers. Dvorak Cycles they will perform in Waterloo (Canada) and Prague.

Recording exclusively for the French record label Praga Digitals, in 2014 the Zemlinsky Quartet became only the fourth quartet in the history to record the complete string quartets by Antonín Dvořák. The complete Dvořák cycles contain the full lengths of all the string quartets. However, the Zemlinsky Quartet decided to record all the early quartets with the cuts, to make the comparison between the long and short version available. All the string quartets in the Zemlinsky Quartet‘s recordings of the Dvořák cycle are between 25-40 minutes in length, which makes it possible to have three quartets performed in each concert over five concerts for the complete Dvořák cycle.

Other Praga Digitals releases include all the string quartets and early chamber music of Alexander Zemlinsky (2006, 2011), a 4-CD set of Schubert’s early quartets (2008), a rare disc of Spanish music for strings (2012), two discs of Mendelssohn quartets (2010), works by Alexander Glazunov (2010), the famous quartets by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven (2011), unknown but excellent piano quintet by M. Weinberg (in cooperation with the young Russian pianist Nikita Mndoyants, 2015), and two CDs in cooperation with Pražák Quartet of Mendelssohn‘s Viola Quintet Op. 18 and Martinů Quartet No. 1. Their CD of the complete string quartets of Josef Suk (released in 2004), resulted in an invitation to perform at the 2005 Prague Spring Festival where they have returned several times since. Their many recordings have received universal critical acclaim in such publications as The Strad, Gramophone, Diapason, and Fanfare magazines.

Between 2006-2011, the Zemlinsky Quartet were Assistant Quartet-in-Residence at Musikakademie Basel in Switzerland. Music education is an important part of their professional life and during their tours, the quartet is often invited to give master classes to students of any age. They also perform educational concerts for students. Recently, František Souček and Petr Holman have been appointed Professors at the Prague Conservatory.

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Tomáš Bican
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Leontien van der Vliet - The Netherlands
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