Banff International String Quartet Festival Concert 4

Leonkoro Quartet, photo by Nikolaj Lund

BISQFest 2023 Concert 4 featuring:

Ema Nikolovska, mezzo-soprano
Gilles Vonsattel, piano
Amelie Wallner, violin
Lukas Schwarz, cello
Dmitri Shostakovich: Seven Romances on Poems by Alexander Blok, Op. 127
     Ophelia’s Song
     Gamayun, the bird of prophecy
     We were together
     The city sleeps
     The storm
     Secret symbols

Leonkoro Quartett
Dmitri Shostakovich: String Quartet in F Major, Op. 73 No. 3
     Moderato con moto
     Allegro non troppo
     Adagio (attacca)

Joel Quarrington, bass
Gilles Vonsattel, piano
Valentin Silvestrov (arranged by Joel Quarrington): Postlude #3, A Prayer for Peace in Ukraine


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Ema Nikolovska

Noted for her exceptional communication and dramatic skill across a broad range of repertoire, Ema Nikolovska was born in North Macedonia and grew up in Toronto where she studied voice with Helga Tucker and completed her undergraduate degree in violin at The Glenn Gould School. She received her Masters in Voice at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London, where she also completed the Opera Course.

In Autumn 2020 she joined the International Opera Studio of the Berlin Staatsoper Unter den Linden where performance highlights include Henze’s Cubana, Christian Jost’s Die Arabische, and a role debut as Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier.

A prolific concert artist, Ema Nikolovska has given critically acclaimed performances at the Berlin Konzerthaus, Pierre Boulez Saal, Wigmore Hall, Verbier Festival, and Toronto Summer Music Festival collaborating with Malcolm Martineau, Wolfram Rieger, Graham Johnson, Sir András Schiff, James Baillieu, Jonathan Ware, Joseph Middleton, Kunal Lahiry, Steven Philcox, and Barry Shiffman among many others.

Ema Nikolovska is wearing a black top, red scarf and red beret, and smiling at the camera

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

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 Quartett

Joel Quarrington

For over forty years, Joel Quarrington has served as the Principal Double Bassist for many orchestras including the Canadian Opera Company, the Toronto Symphony, Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra, and most recently the London Symphony Orchestra. Born in Toronto, Joel began his formal studies of the double bass when he was thirteen. He won the Geneva International Competition and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s National Talent Competition.

A devoted teacher, Joel is a professor at the Conservatoire de Musique of Montreal as well as being a “Visiting Artist” at the Royal Academy of Music and he holds annual masterclasses in the summers at Quebec's Orford Arts Centre. Joel has made several solo recordings, which have won both the prestigious JUNO and Opus Prizes. From the International Society of Bassists, Joel has received a Special Recognition Award for Outstanding Solo Performance and for Outstanding Orchestral Performance.

Headshot of Joel Quarrington, photo by Fred Cattroll