Rolston String Quartet takes top prize at Banff

Canadian ensemble wins Banff International String Quartet Competition 2016

Rolston String Quartet

The Rolston String Quartet has won first prize at the 12th Banff International String Quartet Competition. 'I can't believe it!' viola player Hezekiah Leung said of his group's win, 'It has been a dream of ours even to be here'.

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This triumph brings the Canadian ensemble come full circle, as it formed at the Banff Centre in 2013. 'It is absolutely a lifelong dream as a Canadian musician to win this competition,' says second violinist Jeffrey Dyrda.

The quartet is named after the violinist Thomas Rolston, who was the first director of music at the Banff centre. During the competition, first violinist Luri Lee played on Rolston's Carlo Tononi violin, previously owned by the great Hungarian violinist Zoltán Székely.

The Rolston String Quartet wins $25,000, and a three-year career development programme, which includes a professional recording in Banff and a tour round at least 50 North American and European cities. 

Ten quartets competed over five rounds, focusing on different areas of repertoire, with three quartets making it to the final to play Schubert or Beethoven.

The UK-based Castalian String Quartet took third prize, while the Tesla Quartet took second prize and both special prizes – for best performance of a Haydn quartet and best performance of the Canadian Comission, Zosha Di Castri's Quartet No. 1.

This year's jury members were Vera Beths (Rondom Kwartet), Denis Brott (Orford String Quartet), Isabel Charisius (Alban Berg Quartet), Yoshiko Nakura (Tokyo String Quartet), Geoff Nuttall (St Lawrence String Quartet), Peter Salaff (Cleveland Quartet), Alasdair Tait (Belcea Quartet). Previous winners include the St Lawrence String Quartet and Dover Quartet.

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Photo: Rita Taylor