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About the Banff International
String Quartet Competition

For over 30 years, BISQC has celebrated the art of chamber music while providing career support for emerging string quartets. With great support of the RBC Foundation the 2013 competition will continue this experience, allowing for an unprecedented number of public performances and an exploration of a wide variety of music, all with the aim of creating a festival-like atmosphere during the week-long event.

First-place winners in the first ten events were: the Colorado Quartet (1983), the Franciscan Quartet (1986), the Manfred Quartet (1989), the St. Lawrence String Quartet (1992), the Amernet Quartet (1995), the Miró Quartet (1998), the Daedalus Quartet (2001), the Jupiter String Quartet (2004), the Tinalley Quartet (2007), and the Cecilia String Quartet (2010). (View list of winners.)

The competition is open to quartets of all nationalities whose members are all under the age of 35. Unidentified copies of quartets’ audition recordings are reviewed by a preliminary jury of three, who pick 10 quartets to come to Banff to play for a second jury of seven. Both juries consist of members (or former members of) the world’s leading quartets. Jurors of past competitions have included members of the Alban Berg, Colorado, St. Lawrence, Orford, Budapest, Juilliard, Prague, Kolish, Takacs, Tokyo, Vermeer, Cleveland, Smetana, Borodin, and Quartetto Italiano, among others.

The RBC Awards include $150,000 in cash and prizes, including the offer of a Banff Centre residency with a compact disc recording, a set of bows from internationally-renowned Canadian bow maker François Malo, and a recital tour of Europe and North America arranged by The Banff Centre.

During preliminary sessions the quartets perform works from the classical, romantic, and contemporary repertoires, as well as a new work co-commissioned especially for the competition by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and The Banff Centre. The commissioned works include:

  • 2013 — Vivian Fung, TBD
  • 2010 — Ana Sokolovic, Commedia dell’arte
  • 2007 — Kelly Marie Murphy, Dark Energy
  • 2004 — Stewart Grant, String Quartet No. 2, Banff Variations
  • 2001 — John Estacio, Test Run
  • 1998 — Chan Ka Nin, Quartet No. 3
  • 1995 — Heather Anne Schmidt, Phantoms
  • 1992 — Marjan Mozetich, Lament in the Trampled Garden
  • 1989 — Allan Bell, Arche II
  • 1986 — John Hawkins, Three Archetypes
  • 1983 — Harry Somers, Movement for String Quartet

After hearing each quartet play five complete works in the preliminary rounds of the competition, the jury will select three quartets to go onto the final round. They perform once more on the finals, after which the jury announces a winner.

During the exciting week-long event, audiences can stay at The Banff Centre along with the competitors. The BISQC “resident audience” program has grown significantly since 1998, and has helped to create the festival-like atmosphere during the competition. The resident audience’s unwavering interest and support in the competing quartets is what sets this competition apart from the others.

The Banff International String Quartet Competition is a member of the World Federation of International Music Competitions and was the subject of a prize-winning television documentary, “Music, Mountains, Magic,” produced at the 1992 competition. Parts of the competition have been broadcast on radio across Canada on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and in the United States and Europe.

Music & Sound at The Banff Centre, the host of the string quartet competition, is known for its success in providing supportive, flexible, and intensive programs year-round and special events which meet the artistic and career needs of individual musicians and audio engineers who are preparing for, or actively pursuing, careers in their profession.