A national treasure of their native Norway the Vertavo Quartet has firmly established itself as one of the most exciting strings ensembles of today. In September they take part in two concerts at the Music at Plush festival in Dorset.
Still only in their early thirties, these four friends have performed together for over 20 years, having formed their quartet in Oslo in 1984. On top of a long line of prizes and accolades in June 2005, the Quartet were honoured with the Grieg-Prize 2005; a prize bestowed on an artist of high international standing and of which former recipients include Leif Ove Andsnes, Truls Mørk and the Grieg Trio.
Their special affinity for contemporary music has led them to give commanding performances of works by Ligeti, Adès and works by contemporary Nordic composers such as Nørgård and Asheim. Collaboration with fellow musicians plays an integral role in the Vertavo Quartet's concert life, enriched not least as Artistic Directors of the Elverum Summer Music Festival in Norway where they have formed partnerships with Håkan Hagegard, Malena Ernman, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Stephen Kovacevich, Leif Ove Andsnes, Håkan Hardenberger, Christian Lindberg, Isabelle van Keulen and Michael Collins.
Last season, the Quartet celebrated their 20th anniversary year, highlighted with a Bartok/Haydn series at the 2004 Aldeburgh Festival, a celebratory concert in Oslo's concert hall, an appearance on the Concertgebouw's 'Russian Series' in Amsterdam, twice in London's Wigmore Hall including a world premiere by Julian Philips for Baritone and String Quartet, and a tour of Germany performing in Cologne, Bayreuth and Darmstadt. A recording of short 19th century Russian works entitled 'Les Vendredis' (after the club to which all the composers belonged) was released in their anniversary season for SIMAX Classics, the record label that has been supportive to the Quartet from the outset.
The Quartet continues to build up a considerable presence in the UK. Aside from the abovementioned performances in the Wigmore Hall, they were featured on BBC Radio 3 'In Tune's' Beethoven Festival, performing alongside the Lyndsay and Endellion String Quartets in Spring 2005. They have made studio recordings for BBC Radio 3 in Cardiff, London and Glasgow throughout 2004/05. Their recording of the complete Bartók Quartets, released in November 2001, was equally well received, with the BBC Music Magazine selecting it as "Pick of the Month" in May 2002.
The Vertavo Quartet's recent discography includes quartets by Nielsen, Schumann, Brahms, Grieg and Debussy, for SIMAX Classics, as well as a recording of Mozart and Brahms clarinet quintets with Martin Fröst for BIS Records. Their recording of the Debussy and Grieg quartets received the Diapason d'Or and was highly praised by Gramophone magazine: "Captivating performances which get right to the heart of these intensely emotional works - Not to be missed."
The Vertavo Quartet is dedicated to music education. In Norway, they are the Quartet in Residence for Hedmark County, where their concert series is supported by a strong educational element, including masterclasses, individual tuition and family concerts. Since 1995, and they receive financial support from the Norwegian Cultural Council.
The Quartet first captured international attention when they won no fewer than four awards including the First Prize at the 2nd Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition in 1995. They went on to receive the Nordic Chamber Music Prize (1996), the Critics' Prize from the Norwegian press (1996), a nomination for the Nordic Council's Culture Award in 1998 and the Nordea prize in 2003.
Set in a hidden valley in the rolling Dorset downs on the banks of the river Piddle, Plush is a tiny village known for its famous pub and, more recently, for its summer series of concerts organised by the British cellist Adrian Brendel. Last year marked the 10th anniversary of the festival, during which time it has earned a reputation for music-making on the highest level in a unique atmosphere.
The concerts are held in the picturesque Plush Church, once derelict but now restored and used solely for performances. Its acoustics are universally acknowledged by musicians and audience alike to be uncommonly good, enhanced by the magical aura of the ancient surrounding landscape. sd
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