20 years of Royal String Quartet

20 years, a dozen records awarded the Fryderyk and acclaimed by critics. Devoted audience and concerts on all continents. In June, at home in Warsaw, the Royal String Quartet invite to the jubilee Kwartesencja (1.06-9.07.2018).

Their effervescence, artistic ingenuity, willingness to explore and openness to new challenges make it hard to believe they have been playing for so many years. The Royal String Quartet are among the world’s best, considering names of the concert halls in which they have performed: the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, the Viennese and Berlin Konzerthaus, London’s Wigmore Hall or the Beijing Concert Hall. It’s for the best. These venues host the best ones. The Polish halls include the National Philharmonic, the Witold Lutosławski Concert Studio, and the NOSPR in Katowice. The ensemble isn’t constrained to a single style, as for many years they’ve been stamping their triumph performing with Kayah. Sophisticated pop music, stage song or even jazz – the Royal String Quartet don’t approve of stylistic borders in their ambitious, artistic undertakings.

The beginnings of their career were marked by the compositions of the golden age of the string quartet. Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven – the three names constitute the repertoire of the ensemble’s first album (DUX), which was nominated for the Fryderyk Award in 2002. Technical precision, clarity of the musical form and impeccable style formed the basis of the RSQ’s subsequent career. These very features were appreciated and consequently awarded at international competitions, including the famous Banff one.

Participation in the BBC New Generation Artists, a two-year period scheme giving performance and recording opportunities, helped the ensemble build their repute, too. It also ensured their recognition in Great Britain. In 2004 they performed in front of Queen Elizabeth II, and three years later were nominated for the prestigious Royal Philharmonic Society Award! The word „Royal” in the quartet’s name, which was chosen at random, thus gained quite a new meaning…

From the very beginning the RSQ have been performing and recording Polish music. As they were conquering the United Kingdom, the global audience was only discovering that Poland wasn’t just the birthplace of Chopin. Thanks to that they quickly became one of the leading ambassadors of our culture, which was confirmed by albums available all around the world, released by the renowned Hyperion Records and featuring quartets by Szymanowski, Różycki, Górecki, Penderecki, Lutosławski, as well as works by Szymański and Mykietyn.

Over the years the musicians have been more and more attracted to contemporary, presently created and up-to-date music. Young generation of avant-garde composers owes much to the ensemble, which is deeply involved in working on new pieces, studying unconventional techniques and undertaking unusual tasks (acting included!). The very activity resulted in releasing a DVD Liminal Studies – audio-visual pieces by Wojtek Blecharz, and a CD Umbrae featuring Andrzeja Kwieciński’s quartets (Bôłt Records). Recently they have been entrusted by the Brits to record pieces by their modern classic, James MacMillan (the album, released by Hyperion, is scheduled for the beginning of August).

The Royal String Quartet has quickly proved that they can be fulfilled in various music genres. It all started from the Piazzolla’s tangos recorded with accordionist Klaudiusz Baran (Sony Classical 2003), for which the musicians were awarded their first Fryderyk. Then came jazz arrangements of the Grażyna Bacewicz’s music (Polskie Radio 2009), recorded together with pianist Krzysztof Herdzin, soon followed by an album released with Kayah (Kayax/Agora 2010), which received the status of gold. Finally, there came the theatrical project entitled Nowa Warszawa (New Warsaw) – a song recital about Warsaw, sophistically arranged by Bartek Wąsik, and sung by Stanisława Celińska (Nowy Teatr 2012).

2 Fryderyk awards, 6 nominations for the award, 17 records, 13 Kwartesencja festivals based on the idea of joint music making with friends. The RSQ concerts are held in informal setting; they don’t last long but are tastefully arranged. This year their invitation has been accepted by outstanding cellists Andrzej Bauer (1.06) and Marcin Zdunik (26.06), charismatic, versatile vocalist Barbara Kinga Majewska (14.06), young and talented violist Paweł Czarny (26.06), distinguished pianist and composer Bartek Wąsik (17.06) and, of course, Stanisława Celińska (17.06) and Kayah (9.07). 20 years of the Royal String Quartet – come celebrate with us!