A new classical supergroup of leading European soloists, the Skride Piano Quartet is sweeping through the northern hemisphere like a breath of fresh air – and is now bringing its dazzling energy to Newcastle. Visiting for one night only on Saturday 2 November, the group presents masterpieces by Mozart and Richard Strauss alongside a world premiere by Australian composer Graeme Koehne.
The Skride Quartet was formed in Autumn 2016 by sisters Baiba and Lauma Skride, Lise Bertaud, and founding cellist Harriet Krijgh, who has since left the group and is replaced for this tour by Julian Steckel. While maintaining their own high-profile solo careers, their passion for chamber music unites the four of them. Within a short period of time, they have grown into a close-knit chamber ensemble in great demand internationally.
Born into a musical Latvian family in Riga, violinist Baiba Skride’s natural approach to her music-making has endeared her to some of today’s most important conductors and orchestras worldwide. Winner of first prize at the 2001 Queen Elisabeth Competition, she is a sought-after chamber musician and has worked with prestigious orchestras including the Berliner Philharmoniker, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Boston and Chicago Symphony Orchestras and the New York Philharmonic.
Violist Lise Berthaud is unanimously praised as an outstanding figure on the international music scene. She has performed in prestigious concert venues throughout the world and has played as a soloist with all BBC orchestras, including for her BBC Proms Debut in 2014.
Cellist Julian Steckel’s solo career was launched after he won the prestigious ARD Musikwettbewerb in 2010. Since then, he has soloed with many of the world’s great orchestras and worked with acclaimed conductors such as Christoph Eschenbach, Sir Roger Norrington and Valery Gergiev.
The youngest of three musical daughters, pianist Lauma Skride, was awarded the Beethoven Ring in 2008 and is highly acclaimed for her interpretations of Germanic classical and romantic repertoire, appearing with orchestras such as the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Royal Northern Sinfonia and the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra.
Within two seasons, the Skride Quartet has performed at leading venues and festivals including the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Vienna’s Musikverein, Philharmonie Essen, Great Guild Hall Riga, Istanbul Music Festival and Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, amongst others. In 2018/19, invitations have taken them to Wigmore Hall in London, the Louvre in Paris, on a regional tour of Germany and to many prestigious events worldwide. Further afield, the Quartet performed its debut at the Tanglewood Music Festival in summer 2018 and a US tour in March 2019 which included performances in New York, Washington, Palm Springs and Oklahoma.
The Quartet’s Newcastle program opens with Mozart’s G minor Piano Quartet no 1 – a work of grandeur and towering emotion written at a time when the piano quartet genre was first evolving.
Commissioned to write a piece especially for the tour, Australian composer Graeme Koehne is known for achieving that elusive synthesis of sophisticated technique and a popular touch that invests his music with emotional eloquence and visceral appeal. His compositions have long been among the most popular by any Australian composer, and find a regular presence in the established repertoire of Australian music.
The evening concludes with the C minor Piano Quartet op 13 of Richard Straus – a work of ‘noble but restrained passion’ according to Professor Wilhelm Altmann, the noted German authority on chamber music in Strauss’s day. Altmann was certain that it would ‘long hold its own in the concert hall’ thanks to its ‘wealth of striking melodies and clever ideas.’
Piano quartets are less often heard than piano trios, but the simple addition of a rich-toned viola seems to inspire composers to create music of outstanding lyricism. Together these stunning virtuosi play with an exhilarating sense of joy, mutual respect and endless invention.
Experience the Skride Quartet at the Newcastle Conservatorium on Saturday 2 November at 7:30pm. For bookings and details, please visit www.musicaviva.com.au/skride