MIDDLEBURY, Vt.-On a major United States tour this spring, Berlin's Artemis Quartet plans concerts in Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., San Francisco - and Middlebury College. The acclaimed string foursome will perform at 8 p.m. on Saturday, April 23, in the Center for the Arts Concert Hall. The program that evening will feature selections from Bartók, Schumann and Mendelssohn.
Formed in 1989 by a group of music students in Lübeck, Germany, the Artemis Quartet has been together since 1994 with its current musicians: Natascha Prischepenko and Heime Müller on violin; Volker Jacobsen on viola; and Eckart Runge on cello. They swept the top awards at the German Music Competition in 1995 and followed in 1996 with top honors at the Munich Competition and the Borciani Competition in 1997. They became the first quartet to win the Music Prize of the Association of German Critics in 2001.
With a solid reputation as one of the strongest, most promising young ensembles in the chamber music world today, the Artemis Quartet has proven itself in performances at some of Europe's most prestigious venues - London's Wigmore Hall, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and the Salzberg Festival. Its debut tour of the U.S. in 1998 dazzled critics from coast to coast. The ensemble has toured the U.S. since then, consistently winning high praise.
The New York Times referred to the group as "one of the most impressive of the new generation of string quartets," noting their knack for "surprise, spontaneity and a sense of risk."
A six-month break in 2003 gave each of the quartet members a chance to focus on individual projects and return to the ensemble in 2004 energized to resume a full concert schedule. After a February 2004 performance, a Washington Post critic wrote: "Over the past few years, this young Berlin-based group has refined its lusty vigor and fine-tuned an already taut ensemble with split-second timing, billowing, tapered crescendos and meticulously delineated phrases." A Cincinnati Enquirer headline put it simply: "Artemis String Quartet makes chamber music spectacular." The reviewer wrote: "The quartet's playing is polished and precise but at the same time spontaneous, fresh and explosive as though the music is being improvised on the spot."
In 2001, an Artemis recording of Ligeti won a Diapason d'Or award. Diapason Magazine named the Artemis Quartet "Artists of the Year" in 2002. The ensemble's recordings on the Ars Musici label include works by Beethoven, Verdi, Brahms and Mozart.
Film buffs may recall the Artemis Quartet in the 2001 film "Strings Attached," a story of Beethoven's Grosse Fuge, Opus 133, by Bruno Monsaingeon. They also were featured on the soundtrack of the movie "Death and the Maiden."
Despite their success, the Artemis Quartet's members are continually striving to improve their craft. They frequently take opportunities to study and work with other musicians as a way to broaden and strengthen their repertoire. Committed to sharing their expertise with young musicians, the quartet's members regularly conduct master classes in Germany and France. This summer, the group will work as visiting professors of chamber music at the University of Fine Arts in Berlin.
The Artemis Quartet's concert is sponsored by the Middlebury College Performing Arts Series.
The Middlebury College Center for the Arts is located on South Main Street (Route 30). Reserved seating tickets for the Middlebury performance are $12 for general admission and $10 for seniors. A pre-performance dinner will begin at 6:30 p.m. at Rehearsals Cafe in the Center for the Arts. Reservations are required. For tickets, dinner reservations or information, contact the Middlebury College Box Office at 802-443-6433 or www.middlebury.edu/arts.
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