Banff International String Quartet Festival Concert 8

clockwise from top left: Gilles Vonsattel, Michael Bridge, Ema Nikolovska, Joel Quarrington

Finale concert of BISQFest 2023 featuring:

Gilles Vonsattel, piano
Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 26 in Eb major, Op. 81a, "Les Adieux"
     Das Lebewohl
     Das Wiedersehen

Ema Nikolovska, mezzo-soprano
Michael Bridge, accordion
Manuel de Falla: Siete canciones populares español
     El paño moruno
     Seguidilla murciana

Maurice Ravel: Vocalise-étude en forme de Habanera 
Fernando Jaumandreu Orbradors: Canciones Clásicas Españolas, Vol. 1
     I. La mi sola Laureola
     VII. Chiquitita La novia

Michael Bridge, accordion
Joel Quarrington, bass
Antonio Vivaldi: Sonata No. 6, RV 46 (first published in 1740)     
     Largo doloroso
     Allegro Spirituoso

Jonathan Schwarz, violin
Barry Shiffman, viola
Tate Zawadiuk, cello
Michael Bridge, accordion
Johannes Brahms: Rondo alla Zingarese from Piano Quartet in G minor, Op. 25 No. 1
     Rondo alla Zingarese: Presto


Hao Zhou, violin
Jonathan Crow, violin
Andrew Wan, violin
Barry Shiffman, violin
Aiden Kane, viola
Sharon Wei, viola
Brian Manker, cello
Lukas Schwarz, cello
Felix Mendelssohn: String Octet in E-flat Major, Op. 20
     Allegro moderato ma con fuoco
     Scherzo: Allegro leggierissimo


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Barry Shiffman

Barry Shffman has had a rich and varied career as a performer, recording artist, and administrator. A founding member of the St. Lawrence String Quartet, he appeared in over 2,000 concerts in venues around the globe and recorded several critically acclaimed discs during his 17 years with the ensemble. With the Quartet, he served as visiting artist at the University of Toronto from 1994-2006 and was a member of the faculty of Stanford University from 1998 to 2006.

 He currently serves as both the Associate Dean and Director of Chamber Music at the Glenn Gould School, and Dean of the Phil and Eli Taylor Performance Academy for Young Artists at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. He has also served in numerous roles at Banff Centre, including Director of Music Programs (2006-2010), Artistic Director of the Centre’s Summer Classical Music Programs (2010-2016), and  Director of the Banff International String Quartet Competition. Since 2009 he has been Executive Artistic Director of Music in the Morning in Vancouver. Most recently, he was appointed Artistic Director Designate of Rockport Music in Rockport, Massachusetts.

Mr. Shiffman is the recipient of the Nadia Boulanger Prize for Excellence in the Art of Teaching awarded by the Longy School of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and received an honorary doctorate from the University of Calgary.

Barry Shiffman

Viano Quartet

Hao Zhou, violin
Lucy Wang, violin
Aiden Kane, viola
Tate Zawadiuk, cello

Praised for their “virtuosity, visceral expression, and rare unity of intention” (Boston Globe), the Viano Quartet are one of the most sought-after performing young ensembles today and currently in-residence at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center Bowers Program from 2024-2027. Since winning First Prize at the 2019 Banff International String Quartet Competition, they have traveled to nearly every major city across the globe, captivating audiences in New York, London, Berlin, Vancouver, Paris, Beijing, Toronto, Lucerne, and Los Angeles.

The quartet was named the inaugural June Goldsmith Quartet-in-Residence for the Music in the Morning series in Vancouver until 2025, where their focus will be to commission new works and lead extensive community engagement initiatives. The quartet has also held residencies at the Curtis Institute, Colburn Conservatory, Northern Michigan University, and Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University.

Summer 2023 brings re-invitations to Chamber Music Northwest, the Bravo!Vail Festival and BISQFest, along with appearances at the Intimacy of Creativity Festival in Hong Kong, Ottawa Chamberfest, Minnesota Beethoven Festival, Strings Music Festival, Highlands-Cashiers and Mt. Desert Festivals of Chamber Music, as well as Bay Chamber Concerts. During the 23/24 season the quartet can be heard in Canada, Arizona, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, Utah, New York and California.

The quartet achieved incredible success in their formative years, with an unbroken streak of top prizes at major competitions. In addition to their career-defining achievement at the 2019 Banff International String Quartet Competition, they also received the Grand Prize at the 2019 ENKOR International Music Competition and second prize at the 2019 Yellow Springs Chamber Music Competition. At the 2018 Wigmore Hall International String Quartet Competition they received Third Prize, the Haydn Prize for the best performance of a Haydn quartet, and the Sidney Griller Award for the best performance of the compulsory work, Thomas Ades’ “The Four Quarters”. They received the Silver Medal at the 2018 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition and Third Prize at the 9th Osaka International Chamber Music Competition in 2017.

The Viano Quartet has collaborated with world-class musicians such as pianists Emanuel Ax, Marc-André Hamelin, Inon Barnatan and Elisso Virsaladze, violists Paul Coletti and Paul Neubauer, violinist Noah Bendix-Balgley, vocalist Hila Plitmann and clarinetist David Shifrin. Their chief mentors include faculty of the Curtis Institute and Colburn Conservatory, as well as members of the Dover, Guarneri, and Tokyo string quartets. Past summers have been spent at the Ravinia Steans Chamber Music Institute, the St. Lawrence String Quartet Seminar, the Festival d’Aix en Provence, the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, and the McGill International String Quartet Academy.

The name “Viano” was created to describe the four individual instruments in a string quartet interacting as one. Each of the four instruments begins with the letter “v”, and like a piano, all four string instruments together play both harmony and melody, creating a unified instrument called the “Viano”.

Viano Quartet, photo by Jeff Fasano

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

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

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

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

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

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