La Maison Française at the Embassy of France
4101 Reservoir Rd., NW
Washington, D.C., US 20007
March 23, 2023 | 7:30pm
Bennewitz string quartet concert at La Maison Française
About Bennewitz quartet
Jakub Fišer and Štěpán Ježek,violins; Jiří Pinkas,viola; Štěpán Doležal, violoncello
“The Bennewitz will soon have established itself at the very top of the international quartet world” wrote the Stuttgarter Zeitung, while the Frankfurter Allgemeine raved “Only very rarely does one experience such skillfully crafted and powerful harmonies…Great art!” Founded in 1998 in Prague, it was named after the famous Czech violinist and teacher Antonin Bennewitz (1833-1926), and established its reputation by winning the Osaka (2005) and the Premio Paolo Borciani (2008).
Since then the quartet has performed at numerous festivals (e.g. Rheingau, Heidelberger Frühling, The Lucerne, Lockenhaus, Orlando and Prague Spring) and major venues (Concertgebouw, Auditorio Nacional de Madrid, Theatre des Champs- Elysees, Herkulessaal, the Elbphilharmonie, Rudolfium. Wigmore Hall, Konzerthaus Berlin, Musikverein Vienna, the Seoul Arts Center. In North America the group has been invited to e.g. the Frick Collection, Rockefeller Univ, the National Gallery, to Cleveland, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, San Jose, Palo Alto, Vancouver, Toronto Montreal,and Ottawa. It has become known for its “drama, expression, and utmost sensitivity” (The Strad) as well as its richly differentiated sound culture and interesting programming. Its broad repertoire spans from Bach fugues to the classical canon, and to the contemporary, and includes many lesser-known works. The quartet has been championing Czech music including works by neglected composers such as Reicha, Haas, Ullmann, Schulhoff. It has performed the Martinu Concerto for String Orchestra with the Czech Philharmonic and also gave the Czech premiere of John Adams’ Absolute Jest with the Prague Radio Symphony.
As of the fall of 2017, the quartet has been the ensemble-in residence for the Czech Philharmonic, performing in Prague’s Dvorak Hall. It has played the Weinberg piano quintet with Alexander Melnikov at the Socieda Filarmonica de Bilbao, performed with Lukas Vondracek at the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, and took part in the complete Haydn cycle at Wigmore Hall.
Of its CDs with works by Bartok and Janacek, Fonoforum testified to their “fiery temperament” and found that they had a “sovereign balanced sound culture”. Klassik.com described their recording of the string quartets of Smetana as “simply phenomenal”. They recorded Dvorak Cypresses with baritone Martin Bruns and Dvorak quartets Nos. 10 and 13. In 2018 Cech TV recorded a Janacek CD in Villa Tugendhat in Brno (Mies van der Rohe). The quartet was awarded the 2019 Classic Prague Awards for the Best Chamber Music Recording of their concerts of Schumann, Martinu and Schubert at the Rudolfinum. The recording of the music of Ullmann, Schulhoff, Krasa and Haas was named Editor’s Choice by Presto Classical and was selected as Record of the Week by Europadisc.
The quartet has made several recordings for Czech radio and television, as well for a number of radio and television companies throughout Europe, Japan and Canada.
The Bennewitz studied with Rainer Schmidt of the Hagen Quartet, and with Walter Levin of the former La Salle Quartet. It garnered several prizes including Laureate of the Chamber Music Society of the Czech Philharmonic, the award of the Spanish Queen for best chamber music ensemble, as well as two special prizes at the ARD Music Competition.
Joseph Haydn : String Quartet in C, Op. 54,No. 2
Bohuslav Martinů: String Quartet No. 1, H117, “The French”
Antonin Dvorak : String Quartet in C Op. 106
The Bennewitz String Quartet is represented in North America by Shupp Artists Management, Inc.