Founded by four friends more than twenty years ago, in 1984, Vertavo has risen to the absolute pinnacle of international classical music, reaping utmost acclaim for their frequent tours and not least for their recordings. Next week the four women fly to Japan for a four-date mini-tour with a repertoire comprising Grieg’s String Quartet in F Major, Nørgård’s String Quartet No 8, Beethoven’s String Quartet Op. 74, and Grieg’s String Quartet in G Minor.
Vertavo String Quartet had their true international breakthrough at the Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition in 1995, at which they took home all prizes that were on offer. Since then the awards and accolades have been of the most prestigious kind, and numerous; including 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. And in 2005 they received the Greg prize, Norway’s most prominent award for classical music bestowed on an artist of high international standing and of which former recipients include Leif Ove Andsnes, Truls Mørk and the Grieg Trio.
The 2006/7 season saw them make their debuts at the prestigious venues of Vienna’s Musikverein and New York’s Weill Recital Hall in Carnegie Hall. And they have further performed at London’s Wigmore Hall, Paris, Geneva, Vevey, Bolzano, Alicante and Hamburg. In the USA they have toured both the East and West Coasts, with appearances for the Corvallis Chamber Music Series, concerts and workshops at Chamber Music Concerts Ashland, Oregon, University of Seattle series, Da Camera Chamber Music Society of Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, San Antonio and Vancouver chamber series.
A quartet naturally relies on individual performances, but most of all on communication and the ability to condense in to one musical being. And it is in this respect that Vertavo truly stand out: a function, they will often remind us, of being not only musical partners but personal friends, and of having formed on that basis a long time ago when they were all very young. Vertavo is a Quartet whose achievements have been reached as a group, and where the individual levels of excellence have come to full bloom within that format.
The communication they display on stage has caused critics to use the word ‘telepathy’ and the sense of synthesis; of one mind; one being with eight hands, is nothing less than unique. At the same time there is freshness, youth and adventure to their way of making music, - traits that appear perhaps most clearly in the quartet’s continuous affinity with contemporary music, which has earned them many triumphs and not least many pieces written for them specifically.
Vertavo’s list of recordings is long and diverse. But their recording of Bela Bartók’s complete string quartets from 2001 still stands out perhaps. It was hailed as a something of a milestone recording, and an awesome achievement by the Norwegian quartet. More recently the record Les Vendredis, from 2005, was thus described by Roderic Dunnet of The Strad:
"These are utterly beautiful readings of rare Russian repertory that might easily pass unnoticed. The music is enchantment itself. But it is the yearning feel of these performances that makes one sense also the folk idiom from which Tchaikovsky-and all else that is glorious in 19th-century Russian music-sprang.
The Vertavo Quartet's performances are universally crisp and exciting. They contain plenty of adrenalin and magic, and these four young ladies from Oslo make one of the most bracing chamber music sounds I have heard in years.
(Apropos “Strad,” owning to the generosity of Dextra Musica AS, Vertavo are now playing on a selection of the finest instruments available:
Berit : Lorenzo Storioni from Cremona, 1770.
Øyvor : Giovanni Battista Ceruti, Cremona late 1700.
Henninge: Giovanni Battista Guadagnini, build in Torino 1781.
Bjørg : Gennaro Gagliano, Napoli 1748. )
Vertavo’s latest recoding, released this year, is Nils Henrik Asheim’s “Broken line,” which was written for Vertavo in 2004. Critics have called Asheim’s piece “Sparse in texture yet rich in music”. San Antonio News’ critic, who reviewed Vertavo’s performance of “Broken Line” in Texas this January, goes on to write that:
“The mood shifts often and quickly between tough modernist skittering and richly chorded passages, with terse, rather sad solo statements woven in. The drama is partly in the developing tension between these ideas and partly in Asheim's very sophisticated way of maintaining a connection with certain procedures of traditional tonal harmony while still sounding strikingly modern and free. The piece was composed for the Vertavo, which performed it beautifully.”
Now it is Japan’s turn to experience the magic of Vertavo. -First at two nights in Tokyo, on the 7th and 8th and then in Osaka on the 9th and Fukuoka on the 10th. The repertoire, as already related, is Grieg’s String Quartet in F Major, Nørgård’s String Quartet No 8, Beethoven’s String Quartet Op. 74, and Grieg’s String Quartet in G Minor.
Listen to and buy Vertavo's "Broken Line" here:
Vertavo String Quartet (Performing Bodies\Ensembles)
Simax (Record Companies)