Jiri Nemecek, violin; Stepan Jezek, violin;
Jiri Pinkas, viola; Stepan Dolezal, cello
Some chamber music ensembles present such a beautiful and harmonious overall image on the stage that it is a pure joy to watch them – because their intensive musical cooperation is also reflected in the body language of the group. The Czech Bennewitz Quartet is one of those ensembles: For the young musicians who found each other in 1998 at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague and named themselves after the renowned Czech violinist Antonin Bennewitz (1833-1926), the idea of homogeneity plays an important role. This is expressed in the following words on their home page: “Playing in a quartet means communication for us. It is a challenge to join our various views in order to gain an original result. It is the only way to originate music of many colourful and sonic changes which keep it ever lively and fresh.”
The Bennewitz Quartet has impressively presented such transformations on its CD with works by Bartók and Janácek that was released in 2008 by Coviello Classics: The widely diversified palette of colours in the works is illuminated down to its finest nuances. The trade magazine Fono Forum confirms that the recording has a “fiery temperament“ and concludes: “The young performers have already demonstrated an astonishingly mature and confidently balanced ensemble culture.“ The quartet’s second CD with both string quartets of Smetana was released in spring 2010. Klassik.com referred to the recordings as “simply phenomenal”.
One way in which the four string players acquired their maturity was by working with two important personalities of the international quartet scene: They studied in Madrid with Rainer Schmidt of the Hagen Quartet from 2002-2004; they were subsequently instructed by the great teacher Walter Levin of the former La Salle Quartet at the Basel Music Academy – where the Bennewitz Quartet also taught as the Quartet in Residence at the same time.
Even during their student years, the ensemble already collected its first awards. Among others, these included the laureate of the Chamber Music Society by Czech Philharmony, the diploma of the Queen of Spain for the best chamber music ensemble in 2002/2003, two special prizes in the 2004 ARD Music Competition. This was followed one year later by the first prize at the International Chamber Music Competition in Osaka and a subsequent tour of Japan. In 2008, the tenth year of its existence, the Czech formation was finally presented with the first prize at the highly acclaimed Borciani Competition in Italy.
The quartet debuted at Konzerthaus Vienna, Seoul Arts Center and Wigmore Hall among others during the seaon 2010/ 2012. The enthusiastic resonance of the public, critics and organisers resulted in many new invitations and others to return.
In this season the musicians will give its debut at Salle de Conservatoire Brussels, Alte Oper Frankfurt and at Salzburger Festspiele.
In addition to the very cohesive, well-balanced and richly differentiated sound culture with its carefully harmonised chords, the distinctly independent program selection by the performers is also one of their trademarks. Even though this is still a young ensemble, the Bennewitz Quartet already has a remarkably diversified repertoire: It ranges from the Bach fugues to the classic canon into the modern age and includes an entire series of lesser known works, some of which are by Czech composers: Names such as Olga Jezková or Slavomír Horinka can hardly be found on the repertoire lists of other quartets.
The Bennewitz Quartett is supported by the viennese string-producer Thomastik-Infeld.