Genre: Chamber Music
Founded in 1994, the Zehetmair Quartet quickly gained international prominence and critical acclaim for its vigorous, imaginative, and meticulously wrought performances of the string quartet repertoire. Calling the group "refreshingly iconoclastic," critic Harris Goldsmith of the American Record Guide particularly praised the interpretation of Robert Schumann's String Quartet, Op. 41/3, admiring the ensemble's mastery of the "many aspects of this impassioned piece of German Romanticism."
While the Zehetmair Quartet's innovative spirit is undeniable, this, nevertheless, is a first violinist-dominated ensemble, much of its energy flowing from Thomas Zehetmair's strong artistic personality and immense enthusiasm. However, just like Zehetmair, the three other members - second violinist Matthias Metzger, violist Ruth Killius, and cellist ROSIE|BISS|(WHO|REPLA?Rosie Biss (who replaced ?Daniel Haefliger) - perform regularly as soloists. Often playing from memory, the ensemble successfully integrates aspects of solo playing, which introduce individual artistic insights, into a exceptionally convincing string quartet idiom. The group's immensely successful first concert tour, in 1998, immediately led to invitations from the United States and Japan. The Zehetmair Quartet uses its annual European tour to perform, in addition to the standard repertoire, important works by lesser-known composers such as Karl Hartmann and Sandor Veress. The quartet's awards include the 2003 Record of the Year Award, given by Gramophone, for the performance of Schumann's quartets; the Quarterly Prize from the Deutsche Schallplatenkritik for the 2000 recording of Bartok's and Hartmann's quartets; the Diapason d'Or prize; and the Belgian Klara Preis. The Zehetmair Quartet undertook a U.S. tour in 2005.
- Zoran Minderovic (All Music Guide)
The Zehetmair Quartet has met with exceptionally positive press everywhere. 'What a debut! What a group!' critic Geoff Brown raved in the London Times, on the occasion of the group's first British appearances last year. 'There is something elemental about the Zehetmair Quartet. On they come, devoid of frills, just the instruments, and the music in their heads and fingers. And then they start up, the sound so full-blooded, dangerous and raw. Though the velvet touch is not beyond them, they never dispense dainty milk and honey: you are forcefully aware that this is music-making bold and magical...' Reactions at the Glasgow Herald were similar: 'Wow! What a sensation! The Zehetmair Quartet delivered the most stunning performances...The ensemble playing went light years beyond mere close collaboration. The interconnections between every element of the group were astounding, and the effect was electrifying."
The quartet was formed in 1997, by Thomas Zehetmair, long recognised as one of the most resourceful musicians of his generation. Born in Salzburg in 1961, Zehetmair studied violin with his father at the Mozarteum in Salzburg and completed his studies in master courses with Franz Samohyl, Max Rostal and Nathan Milstein. In 1977, he made his debut at the age of sixteen at the Salzburg Festival. The following year, he won first prize in the International Mozart Competition. His first recording, of works by Mozart, was released in 1979.
A soloist of international standing, Zehetmair makes regular guest appearances with such renowned orchestras as the Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston Symphony Orchestras, Cleveland Orchestra, Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, Philharmonia Orchestra of London, Dresden Staatskapelle, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, the Berlin, Munich, and Vienna Philharmonic Orchestras, as well as the Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt, and Hamburg Radio Orchestras.
Conductors with whom he has worked include Daniel Barenboim, Herbert Blomstedt, Frans Bruggen, Christoph von Dohnanyi, Christoph Eschenbach, John Eliot Gardiner, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Heinz Holliger, Roger Norrington, Simon Rattle, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and Jukka-Pekka Saraste.
His interest in contemporary music is an essential part of his artistic activities. He has given the world premieres of several works, recently including the Violin Concerto of Heinz Holliger. He has recorded with Holliger for ECM New Series (Zehetmair's first recordings for ECM date back to 1984 and performances of Poulenc and Shostakovich from the Lockenhaus Festival).
Thomas Zehetmair has recorded virtually all major repertoire for violin. His recording of the Szymanowsky's Violin Concertos with Simon Rattle and the City of Birmingham Orchestra (on EMI) received the Gramophone Award. His latest recording is of the Beethoven Violin Concerto and Romances with Frans Bruggen, conducting and the Orchestra of the 18th Century.
Zehetmair is also pursuing a second career as a conductor. In recent years he has conducted the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Camerata Academica Salzburg, Stavanger Symphony, Tapiola Sinfonietta, Northern Sinfonia, among others.
His colleagues in the quartet are Ulf Schneider, second violin, Ruth Killius, viola, and Francoise Groben, violoncello.
Ulf Schneider studied in Hannover with Jens Ellermann, at the Juilliard School in New York with Felix Galimir and Masao Kawasaki, and in Berlin with Thomas Zehetmair. In 1991 he formed the Trio Jean Paul with cellist Martin Lohr and pianist Eckart Heiligers and with this ensemble won first prize awards at international competitions in Osaka, Bonn and Melbourne. Schneider has given concerts worldwide and recorded for the Ars Musici label. He directs a class for violin and chamber music at the Music Academy in Kassel.
Ruth Killius plays much contemporary music, as well as standard repertoire. With the Ensemble Contrechamps she had given many first performances (including, for instance, the String Trio of Brian Ferneyhough) and made CD recordings (trios of Hindemith, Petrassi and Veress etc). She made her ECM New debut in 1994, playing on Giya Kancheli's Exil. Killius studied with Ulrich Kocvj and Kim Kashkashian in Freiburg. From 1993 to 1996 she was solo violist with the Camerata Bern. Other orchestras with whom she has worked include the Residenzorchester Den Haag, Orquesta Sinfonica de Tenerife and Orquesta de Valencia.
Francoise Groben studied at the Cologne Music Academy with Boris Pergamenschikow and took master classes with William Pleeth, Daniel Schafran and members of the Amadeus Quartet. In 1990 she received the Special Prize of the Soviet Artists Association at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Competition as well as the second prize of the Moscow Virtuosi. Since then, she has played all around the world and appeared at many festivals, including Cannes in 1993 at the invitation of Mstislav Rostropovich.