The Penderecki String Quartet begins a two-week concert tour of China beginning October 19, 2015. The PSQ is touring with full travel assistance from the Ontario Arts Council and are presented under the auspices of the Shanghai-based agency Wu Promotions who have organized 8 concerts in major halls in Shanghai, Beijing, Xi’an, Tianjin as well as concerts and masterclasses at universities in Beijing, Ningbo, and Tsinghua.
On this tour they are joined initially with Toronto-based jazz pianist David Braid with whom the PSQ have collaborated extensively in Canada. The main program of their concerts includes a new work by Hong Kong native Chan Ka Nin. Dr. Chan was composition professor at the University of Toronto for many years. This new work funded by the Canada Council for the Arts marks Chan’s fifth string quartet. Titled ‘Mountain Song’, Chan uses folk melodies from his recent research in China, including a folksong ‘Beautiful Red Flower’ that is the main underlining element in this new quartet. The acoustic ambience of the Chinese mountain landscape is evoked with sounds of wind, birdcalls, rustling of leaves, and echoes explored in the instrumental writing. It is a riveting and virtuosic work with tremendous flair and a fiery conclusion. Violinist Jeremy Bell remarks, “We love being in China – the food, the rush and energy of people, the complex and rich history of the country! On our last two tours, the audiences were so plentiful and receptive. We have performed works by Chinese composers in China before and it is wonderful to sense the pride they have for their musical heritage – sometimes applauding spontaneously in the middle of a work when a folk tune is recognized ! So we are excited to see how the Chinese will respond to Chan’s new quartet”. Additionally the PSQ will perform works of Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Haydn, as well as their namesake composer: Krzysztof Penderecki’s Quartets No.2 (1968) and No.3 (2008). “We are proud to include Krzysztof’s quartets on this tour”, notes violist Christine Vlajk, “these works are an important part of our identity and we have worked with the composer on them and recently recorded the No.3. They are dynamic, exploratory, and represent us well.” For cellist Katie Schlaikjer, there is an additional personal interest in travelling to China. “I have a cousin once-removed in Shanghai who is coming to the concert when we are there. Though we both grew up in America, this will be the first time she’ll hear me play. I am named after her grandmother, and I haven’t seen her in 15 years!”
As Quartet-in-Residence at Laurier University since 1991, the Penderecki Quartet teaches studio instruction and chamber music to a distinguished body of string students who come from across Canada and around the world. Approaching the third decade of an extraordinary career, the PSQ has become one of the most celebrated chamber ensembles of their generation. These four musicians from Poland, Canada, and the USA bring their varied yet collective experience to create performances that demonstrate their “remarkable range of technical excellence and emotional sweep” (Toronto, Globe and Mail). Their recent schedule has included concerts in New York (Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall), Amsterdam (Concertgebouw), Los Angeles (REDCAT at Disney Hall), St. Petersburg, Paris, Prague, Berlin, Rome, Belgrade, Zagreb, Atlanta, as well as appearances at international festivals in Poland, Lithuania, Italy, Venezuela, and Brazil. The PSQ champions music of our time, performing a wide range of repertoire from Haydn to Zappa as well as premiering over 100 new works to date. Described by Fanfare Magazine as “an ensemble of formidable power and keen musical sensitivity”, the PSQ’s diverse discography includes the chamber music of Brahms, Beethoven, and Shostakovich (Eclectra and Marquis labels) and their recently released Bartok cycle. They enter their 25th year as Quartet-in-Residence at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario.