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THE SCOOP | Canadian Rolston String Quartet Wins 12th Banff International String Quartet Competition

By Michael Vincent on September 5, 2016

Canada's Rolston String Quartet crowned BISQC First Place winners (Photo: Rita-Taylor)
Canada’s Rolston String Quartet crowned BISQC First Place winners (Photo: Rita-Taylor)

BANFF—After an afternoon of final rounds at the Banff International String Quartet Competition (BISQC), the audience crowded outside into the early September sunshine to wait for the juries final say. A deer was spotted jaunting in front of the Eric Harvie Theatre, prompting sign that the once Banff affiliated Rolston String Quartet might win. Well, they did.

The Rolston Quartet were awarded a First Place cash prize of $25,000 and two-year, 50-concert tour of Europe and North America. They will also receive a three-week Banff Centre residency where they will record a professional full-length album. The quartet also won the Lunenburg Academy of Music Prize and the coveted Esterházy Foundation Prize for a performance at the Esterházy Palace in Austria.

“Without any doubt, the level of string quartet playing is at an all-time high,” said Barry Shiffman, BISQC Executive Director. “Following five rounds… the Rolston String Quartet demonstrated excellence across multiple genres. This young quartet now has the opportunity to share their artistry with the world.”

The Rolston String Quartet was formed during a Chamber Music Residency at Banff Centre in 2013. Their namesake is hugely significant. Thomas Rolston was a Canadian violinist who became the first director of music at the Banff Centre for the Arts founder and longtime director of the Music and Sound Programs at Banff Centre. He oversaw Centre’s summer programs until his retirement in 2004.

Rolston String Quartet receive their prize. (Photo: Rita Taylor)
Rolston String Quartet receive their prize. (Photo: Rita Taylor)

The group’s connection to Toronto also runs deep. Each member are alumni of Toronto’s The Royal Conservatory and three of them graduates of the Glenn Gould School. They have since relocated to Houston’s Rice University Shepherd School of Music where they are completing their final year as Graduate Quartet-in-Residence.

The Rolston String Quartet marks only the third Canadian winner in the history of BISQC, which includes St. Lawrence String Quartet (1992) and Cecilia String Quartet (2010).

2016 BISQC Second Prize winners, Tesla Quartet. (Photo: Rita Taylor).
2016 BISQC Second Prize winners, Tesla Quartet. (Photo: Rita Taylor).

Second Prize went to the American Tesla Quartet, who received a $12,000 cash price, as well as a future Banff residency and mentorships. The group also won the $3000 Canadian Commission Prize for their performance of Zosha Di Castri’s String Quartet No. 1, and the R.S Williams & Sons Haydn Prize ($3,000) for their performance of Haydn’s String Quartet in B minor, Op. 33 No. 1.

2016 BISQC Third Prize winners: Castalian Quartet. (Photo: Rita Taylor)
2016 BISQC Third Prize winners: Castalian Quartet. (Photo: Rita Taylor)

The $8000 Third Prize went to UK’s Castalian String Quartet. They will also receive a fully funded Banff residency and mentorships totalling $15,000.

New this year, each of the remaining seven quartets received a special career development grant of $4000.

For those in Toronto, you will likely be able to hear the Rolston String Quartet perform at a future date at Women’s Musical Club of Toronto and Koerner Hall, who each traditionally invite Banff laureates to their regular season concerts.

The Rolston String Quartet will not be able to celebrate for long, as they are heading to the UK for a short residency starting tomorrow.

[Correction, Sept 6, 2016. A previous version stated all members of the quartet were graduates of the Glenn Gould School (GGS). This is incorrect, as only three members of the group studied at the GGS.]

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Michael Vincent

Michael Vincent is the Editor-in-chief Ludwig Van and CEO of Museland Media. He publishes regularly and writes occasionally. A specialist in digital media for over 15 years, he has worked as a senior editor and is a former freelance classical music critic for the Toronto Star. Michael holds a Doctorate in Music from the University of Toronto.
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