Szymanowski quartett

The Karol Szymanowski Quartet’s 25th anniversary year is a year of renewal: with Agata Szymczewska, Robert Kowalski, Volodia Mykytka and Karol Marianowski, the ensemble presents itself to the music world in a different line-up and, by returning to its original name, also forges a link to its roots.

Ever since its founding in Warsaw in 1995, the Karol Szymanowski Quartet has been characterised by a constant search for new inspiration and an openness to the unpredictable; and great musicians have contributed their voices to the sound of the renowned ensemble. To this day, its members are united by an extraordinary common understanding of music, a shared basic inspiration grounded in a commitment to Polish music and the Polish composer, Karol Szymanowski. His music, with its immense freedom and infinite possibilities of expression, still exercises a strong power of identification on the ensemble even after 25 years. For the musicians with their Polish and Ukrainian roots, it represents both an intense preoccupation with their origins and identities and a clear commitment to crossing borders; concerns that constitute the basis of the
quartet’s extraordinary career.

The Karol Szymanowski Quartet began its chamber music education at the Hanover University of Music and Performing Arts with Hatto Beyerle, who recognized and encouraged the professional standard of the ensemble’s playing at an early stage. Eberhard Feltz, Walter Levin, Alfred Brendel, Seiji Ozawa, Bernard Greenhouse, Friedemann Weigle, as well as members of the Amadeus, Emerson, Juilliard and Guarneri Quartets were other important mentors.

A master class with Isaac Stern in New York, which, after many weeks of intensive work, led to concerts at Carnegie Hall, was particularly formative for the quartet’s further development. Numerous prizes and awards followed, for example at competitions in Weimar, Hannover, Melbourne, Osaka and Florence.

Beginning in 2001, the quartet benefitted from a three year membership of the BBC’s “New Generation Artists Scheme“

The Karol Szymanowski Quartet has received great recognition for its exploration of Alban Berg’s music and for the first performance of works dedicated to the quartet. But it was above all as ambassadors of Szymanowski’s string quartets and the music of Polish and Eastern European composers, including Witold Lutosławski, Sofia Gubaidulina, Mieczysław Weinberg and Krzysztof Penderecki – with whom the quartet had a close working relationship – that enabled it to enter the top rank of
the international music scene over the next few years; a commitment that was honoured in 2005 with the renowned “Szymanowski Prize“ and in 2007 with the Polish Medal of Honour. This engagement with their musical roots took on a special character in 2008 with the founding of the “Lviv Chamber Music Festival“, a chamber music festival on the border between Ukraine and Poland. On the initiative of the Karol Szymanowski Quartet, Lviv, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, became for seven years a musical and cultural meeting place for numerous artists and ensembles, including Gidon Kremer, Khatia Buniatishvili, Nicolas Altstaedt and Oleg Maisenberg, who were invited to take part in cultural exchanges and joint concerts.

The Karol Szymanowski Quartet is primarily concerned with the search for connection and exchange beyond epochs and national borders. On this understanding, the musicians devise exciting concert programmes with great enthusiasm and experience, which are highly praised by critics and audiences alike. Whether music by Korngold, Schoenberg, Stravinsky and Tansmann is heard in one evening, or compositions by Sofia Gubaidulina and Benjamin Britten are juxtaposed – the ensemble always succeeds in revealing the multi-layered connections in an intelligent and inspiring way.

This approach is also reflected in the Karol Szymanowski Quartet’s exciting discography, which includes works by Haydn, Dvořák and Shostakovich, as well as numerous rarely recorded compositions by Bacewicz, Zelenski, Zarebski, Friedman, Weinberg and Rózycki. A three- part series is dedicated to the music of Karol Szymanowski in the context of the three music capitals Paris, Vienna and Moscow, the most recent recordings include “Les Vendredis“, a collection of string quartets by various Russian composers, which were performed at the famous Friday concerts of the publisher Belaieff at the end of the 19th century. However, the ensemble’s close connection to its audience is created above all in the numerous live concerts it performs around the globe. The quartet has been a guest at renowned concert halls such as New York’s Carnegie Hall,
London’s Wigmore Hall, the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, the Vienna Musikverein, the Berlin Konzerthaus and the Shanghai Symphony Hall and has performed at the international festivals in the Rheingau, BBC Proms, Schleswig-Holstein, Schubertiade and Lockenhaus as well as concert series in Los Angeles, Paris, London, Warsaw, Moscow, Cheltenham, Basel and Perth.

In every concert, the quartet shows itself to be open to the unexpected and the unpredictable, to new impulses and thoughts. And so, a uniquely intimate atmosphere is always created that inspires audiences worldwide and has carried the Karol Szymanowski Quartet through every renewal and change for 25 years.