Banff International String Quartet Festival Concert 3

Composer Carmen Braden, photo by Hannah Eden

BISQFest 2023 Concert 3 featuring:

Michael Bridge, accordion
Anna Štube, violin
Ralph Vaughn Williams: The Lark Ascending

Leonkoro Quartett
Franz Joseph Haydn: String Quartet in C Major, Op. 33 No. 3 
     Allegro moderato
     Scherzo: Allegretto
     Adagio ma non troppo
     Finale: Rondo-Presto

New Orford String Quartet
Carmen Braden, narrator
Carmen Braden: The Raven Conspiracy 
     Sticks and Bones
     Waltz of Wing and Claw
     Something Shiny

Hao Zhou, violin
Gilles Vonsattel, piano
Paul Nero: The Hot Canary

Michael Bridge

Michael Bridge is a 21st-century musical maverick—toppling popular expectations of what it is to be a professional accordionist.

He’s a virtuoso performer on both the acoustic accordion and its 21st Century cousin, the digital accordion— an extraordinary piece of technological wizardry that imitates the sound of just about any instrument you can imagine. His concerts capture the energy and panache of stadium rock with the elegance and discipline of
chamber music.

It all began when Bridge was five and growing up in Calgary. His mom bought him a $5 accordion at a garage sale and Michael was hooked.

Since then he’s won a slew of competitions in Canada and abroad and was named one of CBC’s 30 under 30 classical musicians. He gives over 100 concerts a year as a soloist and as a member of both Bridge & Wolak and Ladom Ensemble. He offers lectures and masterclasses around the world. He received his doctorate in accordion performance from the University of Toronto with Joseph Macerollo (the first Canadian to do so) and is a Rebanks Fellow at the Glenn Gould School.

Bridge & Wolak also give back through an online Music Mentorship Program. After performing hundreds of concerts in schools, they are determined to build more meaningful relationships with musically inclined teens.

Dr. Bridge embraces a musical aesthetic that is alternatively irreverent, deadly serious, meticulously prepared and completely in-the-moment. He’s at home with classical, jazz and folk music. He’s premiered 53 new works. If pushed, he’ll say he likes Baroque music best because of its unforgiving demand for clarity of intent and execution.

Ultimately, he aims to make your world more bearable, beautiful and human—even if only for the length of a concert.

Michael Bridge is playing a black accordion and smiling at the camera

Anna Štube

17-year-old Latvian violinist Anna Štube has astounded audiences with her depth of expression and zest for the instrument throughout her international performance career devoted to sharing the compassion and humanity of music.

Featured on CBC Music’s 2022 ‘30 Under 30’ roster, Anna made her solo debut at age 13 with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra after receiving the Grand Prize at the Canadian Music Competition. She has been the recipient of numerous accolades for her artistry including First Prize at the 2019 OSM Manulife Competition as their youngest ever winner. Anna was recently a semi finalist of the 2022 Cooper International Violin Competition and has performed with orchestras including the Calgary Civic Symphony and Kensington Sinfonia.

A passionate chamber musician, Anna has collaborated with preeminent artists including an appearance on NPR’s ‘From The Top’ program in 2019 with Paul Katz and alongside the Kronos Quartet as part of their ‘Fifty For The Future’ project. As a founding member of Trio Savyon, Anna completed a recital tour in Israel with subsequent performances at the renowned Rockport Chamber Music Festival in 2019 and for the Calgary Philharmonic Society. Anna was recently invited back to the Rockport Festival concert series as a soloist in 2022. She has also worked with distinguished musicians such as Noah Bendix-Balgley, Christian Tetzlaff, Pinchas Zukerman, Mihaela Martin, and Philip Setzer.

Anna currently studies at the Royal Conservatory of Music with Jonathan Crow and Barry Shiffman as well as at the Mount Royal Conservatory in Calgary with William Van der Sloot.

Anna Stube is holding a violin and looking towards the camera smiling

Leonkoro Quartett

Jonathan Schwarz, violin
Amelie Wallner, violin
Mayu Konoe, viola
Lukas Schwarz, cello

The string quartet, founded in Berlin in 2019, could hardly be described more aptly than in the review published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in January 2022.

The ensemble is framed by brothers Jonathan and Lukas Schwarz on 1st violin and cello, with Amelie Wallner on 2nd violin and Mayu Konoe on viola providing the middle voices. Leonkoro, in Esperanto: Lionheart, alludes not coincidentally to Astrid Lindgren's children's book about two brothers, a book that juxtaposes the grave fact of dying with a large and heartfelt portion of consolation - a meaning the quartet's music is also dedicated to in not a few places.

The year 2022 is a year of awards for the Leonkoro Quartet:

In March 2022, the ensemble was honored with the coveted and highly endowed Jürgen Ponto Foundation Music Prize which is awarded every two years to an outstanding string quartet.

In April 2022, the four musicians won 1st prize at the International String Quartet Competition at Wigmore Hall London and were also awarded 9 out of 12 special prizes. These included the prize for the best performance of a work from the 19th century, the Britten Pears Young Artists Programme Prize, the Leeds International Concert Series Prize and the Esterházy Foundation Prize.

In May 2022, the ensemble was awarded with the 1st prize at Quatuor à Bordeaux Competition. They were able to convince not only the top-class jury, but also the audience who awarded them the Audience Prize as well as the Young Audience Prize. At the end of the month, they were appointed to the prestigious BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists program, of which the quartet will be a part from 2022 - 2024.

This was followed by the MERITO String Quartet Award in November 2022. Unlike a classical competition, the five selected ensembles do not know that they will be evaluated by a jury - made up of renowned string quartet musicians - over the course of a year and will demonstrate their artistic level in concerts. The MERITO String Instrument Trust will support the ensemble for four years with among other things, a composition commission.

In the summer of 2021, the Leonkoro Quartet got off to a brilliant start on the international stage when it became the youngest formation to be awarded 2nd prize (the 1st prize was not awarded) and the coveted Audience Prize at the highly renowned international string quartet competition Premio Paolo Borciani. In the same year, the ensemble won 1st prize in the Chamber Music Competition of the Alice Samter Foundation and was awarded 2nd prize in the Ton und Erklärung competition of the Kulturkreis der Deutschen Wirtschaft.

In addition to studying chamber music with Heime Müller at the Musikhochschule Lübeck, the quartet has been studying with Günter Pichler (Primarius Alban Berg Quartet) at the Chamber Music Institute of the Escuela Superior de Música Reina Sofía Madrid since 2020 with the generous support of Santander Consumer Bank AG.

The Leonkoro Quartet is fostered intensively by members of the Artemis Quartet at the Berlin University of the Arts. The four musicians received further artistic impulses from Alfred Brendel, Reinhard Göbel, Rainer Schmidt (Hagen Quartet), Oliver Wille (Kuss Quartet) and Luc-Marie Aguera (Quatuor Ysaye).

During the 2022/2023 season, the Leonkoro Quartet will perform at venues including the Konzerthaus Berlin, CAPE Ettelbruck, Alte Oper Frankfurt, the VIBRE Festival in Bordeaux, the String Quartet Festival in Heidelberg and the Dresden Music Festival. In addition, the ensemble will begin its three-year residency in Leeds and will play two concerts at Esterhazy Castle.

The Leonkoro Quartet is a Pirastro Artist.

Leonkoro Quartet, photo by Nikolaj Lund

New Orford String Quartet

Jonathan Crow, violin
Andrew Wan, violin
Sharon Wei, viola
Brian Manker, cello

Four musicians with equally stellar pedigrees formed the New Orford String Quartet with the goal of developing a new model for a touring string quartet. Their concept – to bring four elite orchestral leaders and soloists together on a regular basis over many years to perform chamber music at the highest level – has resulted in a quartet that maintains a remarkably fresh perspective while bringing a palpable sense of joy to each performance. The Toronto Star has described this outcome as “nothing short of electrifying.

The New Orford String Quartet has seen astonishing success, giving annual concerts for national CBC broadcast and receiving unanimous critical acclaim, including two Opus Awards for Concert of the Year, and a 2017 JUNO Award for Best Classical Album. Recent seasons have featured return engagements in Chicago, Montreal and Toronto, as well as their New York City debut on Lincoln Center’s Great Performers series.

The original Orford String Quartet gave its first public concert in 1965, and became one of the best-known and most illustrious chamber music ensembles. After more than 2,000 concerts on six continents, the Orford String Quartet gave its last concert in 1991. Two decades later, in July 2009, the New Orford String Quartet took up this mantle, giving its first concert for a sold-out audience at the Orford Arts Centre. The New Orford has since gone on to perform concerts throughout North America and lead residencies at the University of Toronto, Schulich School of Music, Mount Royal University, and Syracuse University. In September 2017 the Quartet became Ensemble in Residence at the University of Toronto, and was recently named Artistic Directors of the Prince Edward County Music Festival, where they made their curatorial debut in September 2018.

In 2011, the Quartet recorded its debut album of the final quartets of Schubert and Beethoven, released by Bridge Records to international acclaim. The recording was hailed as one of the top CDs of 2011 by La Presse and CBC In Concert and nominated for a JUNO Award in 2012. Critics have described the recording as “…flawless… a match made in heaven!” (Classical Music Sentinel); “a performance of rare intensity” (Audiophile Audition); and “nothing short of electrifying… listen and weep.” (The Toronto Star). Their follow-up album of the Brahms Op.51 Quartets was equally well-received, and received the 2017 JUNO for best chamber music album.

The New Orford is dedicated to promoting Canadian works, both new commissions and neglected repertoire from the previous century. New Orford String Quartet projects have included performances of major Canadian string quartets from the 20th century including works by Glenn Gould, Sir Ernest MacMillan, Jacques Hétu, R. Murray Schafer, and Claude Vivier, as well as commissions of new works from composers such as Francois Dompierre, Gary Kulesha, Airat Ichmouratov and Tim Brady. The Quartet thrives on exploring the rich chamber music repertoire; recent collaborations include those with pianists Marc-André Hamelin and Menahem Pressler.

The Quartet regularly tours in the major cities of North America, including Washington, D.C., Toronto, and Los Angeles; at the same time, the members feel strongly about bringing this music to areas that don’t often hear it, and as a result perform frequently in remote rural locations and smaller Canadian communities. The New Orford String Quartet are Artists-in-Residence at Western University in London, ON.

New Orford String Quartet, photo by Dahlia Katz

Carmen Braden

Award-winning composer and singer/songwriter Carmen Braden is a dynamic force in the world of new music, hailing proudly from Yellowknife NWT. Carmen is a “multi-talented artist” (BK on the Scene) recognized as an “acoustic ambassador of the Canadian Subarctic” (Musicworks). She has played intimate theatres and main stage folk festivals, and smoothly jumps between genres of songwriting and composing. Her contemporary classical compositions are nationally recognized, with WCMA/ECMA awards+nominations, commissions and performances by world class ensembles and performers including the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, James Ehnes and the Canadian Chamber Choir. About her music: “a spacious and rich journey into how we as humans internalize and connect to our environment (The Sound Cafe - for Seed Songs) “Braden’s music is clear, and it is bright...this recording is captured psychogeography.” (Whole Note - for Songs of the Invisible Summer Stars); and her songwriting: is “quirky and clever...à la Joni Mitchell” (The WholeNote - for Ravens). Carmen has released three studio albums, and works as a producer in Yellowknife, and presenter of unusual music concerts including the Longshadow Music Festival.

Headshot of Carmen Braden, photo by Hannah Eden

Gilles Vonsattel

Swiss-born American pianist Gilles Vonsattel is an artist of extraordinary versatility and originality. He is the recipient of an Avery Fisher Career Grant, winner of the Naumburg and Geneva competitions, and was selected for the 2016 Andrew Wolf Chamber Music Award. He has made appeared with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, San Francisco Symphony, Munich Philharmonic, Detroit Symphony, Chicago Symphony, and Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg while performing recitals and chamber music at Ravinia, Tokyo’s Musashino Hall, Wigmore Hall, the Lucerne Festival, Bravo! Vail, Chamber Music Northwest, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival and Music@Menlo. Deeply committed to the performance of contemporary music, he has premiered numerous works both in the United States and Europe and has worked closely with numerous notable composers including Jörg Widmann, Heinz Holliger, Anthony Cheung, and George Benjamin. Recent projects include a performance of Carlos Chávez's Piano Concerto at Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium with The Orchestra Now, a debut at Mostly Mozart, a critically acclaimed recording of music of Richard Strauss and Kurt Leimer with the Bern Symphony Orchestra and Mario Venzago for Schweizer Fonogramm, as well as multiple appearances with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. During the summer of 2022, Vonsattel appeared at seven of the United States’ most prestigious chamber music festivals. An alum of CMS's Bowers Program, Vonsattel received his bachelor’s degree in political science and economics from Columbia University and his master’s degree from the Juilliard School. He currently makes his home in New York City. Vonsattel is Professor of Piano at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and serves on the faculty of Bard College Conservatory of Music.

Gilles Vonsattel

Hao Zhou

"Personal, impassioned, courageous, and unostentatiously brilliant” (Musical America), American violinist Hao Zhou rose to international acclaim as both the Grand Laureate and Audience Favorite of the 2019 Concours Musical International de Montréal and a First Prize winner of the 2019 Banff International String Quartet Competition.

An accomplished soloist and chamber musician, Hao made his Carnegie Hall debut at the age of 12. He made solo appearances with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, Downey Symphony Orchestra, and Peninsula Symphony Orchestra alongside conductors such as Esa-Pekka Salonen, Alexander Shelley, and Thierry Fischer. Hao is a founding member of the award-winning Viano Quartet, in residence at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center Bowers Program from 2024-2027, and has performed worldwide alongside such internationally distinguished artists as Emanuel Ax, Roberto Diaz, James Ehnes, Noah Bendix-Balgley, and Marc André-Hamelin.

Hao is a recent graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music and has been invited to perform at the Kronberg Academy Festival. He was the first recipient of the Frances Rosen Violin Prize at the Colburn Conservatory, where he studied with Martin Beaver and received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. Hao plays on a 1783 Joseph and Antonio Gagliano violin, on generous loan from the Aftergood Family.