An international string quartet competition gives one a change to hear several string quartets while spending time with a group of people who are also very interested in string quartet music. It can make a really pleasant vacation. There are several competitions, but here are my favorates.
The Banff International String Quartet Competition
Founded in 1983, the Banff festival takes place every third year at the Banff Center in the Rocky Mountains just West of Calgary, in Canada. The next competition will occur in 2016. This is a week long event during which approximately 10 string quartets (whose oldest member must be 35 or under) compete for a prize. Each quartet performs several times, and on one day they all perform the same piece, one after another. By the weekend, three groups are selected and they play still other pieces. Then the judges choose the winner. For a week, about two hundred people live and breathe string quartets while listening, dining and living at the Banff Center, high in the Rocky Mountains. Because it all takes place at the Banff Center, one can call and make arrangements for tickets, room and board all at one central location. This is a real peak experience for someone who loves string quartets. For more information, check www.banffcentre.ca/bisqc/
The Wigmore International String Quartet Competition
Founded in 1979 as the London International String Quartet Competition, the competition changed its name in 2010 and is now named after its venue, a popular hall in London where chamber music is performed year round. (The Wigmore is located in the Marylebone section of London, a short walk from Portman Square (Radisson Blue Portman Hotel, Hyatt Regency London) and it's close to the Bond Street Underground Station on Oxford Street.) The Wigmore competition takes place every third year and its most recent occurrence was on March 25-29 of 2015. As with Banff, contestants perform over the course of a week and a winner is selected. Unlike Banff, which can be attended for a modest cost, staying in London for this event will cost quite a bit more and arrangements will be more complex to make. In essence you buy tickets from the Wigmore and make all other arrangements on your own. If you like music and nature, and want to just focus on the music, go to Banff; if you want music and the enjoyable distractions of the shopping and dining opportunities available in a great city, go to the Wigmore Competition in London. For more information, see www.wigmore-hall.org.uk/competitions/string-quartet
Other International Competitions
There are other international string competitions. One of the most respected is the Premio Paolo Borciani International String Quartet Competition that takes place at Teatro Valli in Reggio Emilia, Italy (near Milan). This event takes place every third year in May. It is occuring this year (2014) and will occur again in 2017. Obviously speaking Italian would be a help if you attended this event since, as with London, you would need to make your own hotel reservations. I have never attended this event and have no knowledge of it, but would love to hear from someone who has.
Another international string competition is the Osaka International Chamber Music Competition which is held in Izumi Hall in downtown Osaka Japan. This event has two sections, one for various chamber music groups, and one for String Quartets. This event occured for the 8th time this year (2014) in May and will be reoccuring in 2017. Obviously speaking Japanese would help if you attended this event and you would have to make your own hotel reservations. On the other hand, as with the London competition, you would be in a great city. If you get a chance to visit this event, be sure to include a couple of days to visit nearby Nara, the ancient capital of Japan. I have never attended this event either and would also love to hear from anyone who has.
The Fischoff Competition
The Fischoff Competition takes place each year in South Bend Indiana (at Notre Dame University), and has since 1973. The Fischoff is an international competition open to any chamber music performer in the world and has two divisions, junior and senior. It is a chamber music competition and gives prizes in both winds and strings. Not all string groups are string quartets, but many are, and the senior division winner is usually a string quartet. (In 2014 the competiton's overall winner and the winner of the strings senior division was San Francisco's own Telegraph Quartet.) Visitors can attend for free and the public contest runs three days, Friday-Sunday, with multiple tracks. One has to make one's own reservations in South Bend Indiana.
The next Fischoff Competition will take place on May 6-8, 2016. For more information on this event, please see: www.fischoff.org
The String Quartet Biennial (Biennale de Quatuors a cordes)
The String Quartet Biennial takes place at the Cite de la musique in Paris. Every two years the biennial brings together the best string quartets in the world.
The 7th biennial takes place in Paris on January 17, 2016. This year's list of invitees, provides a list of quartets that the Paris committee thinks among the best new quartets, and includes the following quartets: Cecilia (Canada), Noga (Germany), Atrium (Russia), Mucha (Slovica), Rusquartet (Russia), Psophos (France), Abel (South Korea), Van Kuijk (France), Piatti (United Kingdon), Lyskamm (Italy), Arod (France), David Oistrakh (Russia), Bela (France), New Russian (Russia), and Telegraph (US).
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