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It's unprecedented! Two Quartets share First Prize at the prestigious Banff International String Quartet Competition

By Rosemary Thompson Posted on September 01, 2019
Image courtesy Banff & Lake Louise Tourism, photo by Jake Dyson
The winning quartets will share one of the largest prizes in Chamber Music in the world.

In an unprecedented jury decision, the Marmen Quartet from the UK comprised of Johannes Marmen (violin), Bryony Gibson-Cornish (violist), Steffan Morris (cellist) and Ricky Gore (violin) together with the Viano String Quartet from Canada/USA comprised of Lucy Wang (violin), Hao Zhou (violin), Aiden Kane (viola), Tate Zawadiuk (cello) have won one of the most coveted prizes in chamber music at the 13th Banff International String Quartet Competition (BISQC) at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.

The two quartets won at the end of the 7 days of competition out of a field of 10 competing ensembles from around the world. Throughout the week the quartets have performed in the Recital Round, the Romantic Round, the Canadian Commission Round, and the Shubertplus Round. On Sunday, each of the three finalists performed a complete work by Beethoven. After two hours of deliberations, the jury of 7 selected both quartets as winners of the top prize. 


Prize winners include:

First Prize: First Prize has been awarded jointly to the Marmen Quartet (UK) and Viano String Quartet (Can/USA). 

Each of the two quartets will receive $16,500 cash prize, and will share concert tours of over 40 major markets in Europe and North America, a creative residency at Banff Centre for recording opportunities, as well as coaching and mentorship opportunities. 

Southern Methodist University Peak Fellowship Ensemble-in-Residence Prize the first prize laureates will share a two-year paid residency worth $160,000 USD at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. 

Esterházy Foundation Prize: A recital in Haydn Hall at the Esterházy Palace in Eisenstadt (Austria), will be shared by the First Prize Laureates. The Prize includes artist fees and travel expenses. 

St. Lawrence String Quartet Prize at Stanford University: will also be shared by First Prize Laureates is a fully-funded invitation to the St. Lawrence String Quartet (SLSQ) Chamber Music Seminar in 2020 or 2021, combined with a one-time position as resident string quartet for Stanford University’s summer Pre-Collegiate Studies Program, directly following the Seminar. 

Second Prize: Callisto Quartet (USA) receives a $12,000 cash prize and creative residency at Banff Centre including coaching and mentorship opportunities valued at $15,000.

R.S. Williams & Sons Haydn Prize: Marmen Quartet (UK) receives a $3,000 prize for the best performance of a Haydn quartet from Round One of the competition. 

Canadian Commission Prize in honour of the R.S. Williams & Sons Company: Awarded jointly to Marmen Quartet (UK) and Viano Quartet (Can/USA), is a $3,000 prize for the best performance in Round Three of the commissioned quartet, Bright Ferment by Canadian-Finnish composer Matthew Whittall.

The Anderson Career Development Award of $4,000 is presented to all seven quartets not selected to the final round.

“Anybody who witnessed the remarkable music making in Banff this week knows that the art of the string quartet is being pursued at an all time high," says competition director Barry Shiffman."The artistry of the Viano and Marmen Quartets deserve the 1st prize of this much loved competition. While this an unprecedented result in the history of the Banff International String Quartet Competition, it is the result of an abundance of talent.” 

The competition, which takes place every three years, has launched the careers of many successful quartets internationally including the Rolston String Quartet in 2016 and the Dover Quartet in 2013. 

The competing quartets come from around the globe and are some of the finest classical musicians emerging on the world stage today. Chosen by a jury of internationally celebrated musicians, the  finalists competed for awards worth over $300,000 in cash and prizes, the most generous prize in chamber music internationally. 

This year, thanks to a new collaboration, the first prize winner will be awarded the Southern Methodist University Peak Fellowship Ensemble in Residence Prize, a paid two-year residency in Dallas, Texas. This, in addition to generous cash prizes, residency opportunities at Banff Centre, and a three-year artistic and career development program, makes the triennial chamber music competition one of the top events of its kind. 

Banff Centre would like to thank all supporters including the Azrieli Foundation, and media partners including the CBC and the Violin Channel for sharing the concerts online and on CBC Radio. Banff Centre acknowledges support from the Government of Alberta, Alberta Foundation for the Arts, and the Canada Council.

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