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THE SCOOP | Banff International String Quartet Competition Updates: Jury, Competition, Canadian Commission

By Anya Wassenberg on July 9, 2024

String quartet Opus 13 perform at the 2022 Banff International String Quartet Competition (Photo: Rita Taylor)
String quartet Opus 13 perform at the 2022 Banff International String Quartet Competition (Photo: Rita Taylor)

The Banff International String Quartet Competition (BISQC) will return for its 15th iteration in 2025. While the competition may be a year or so away, the international jury has been announced, along with the details of a commission by a Canadian composer.

The competition has also announced a new and innovative format for the finals round – one that takes the realities of a modern string quartet into account.

“We are thrilled to share this announcement of rules, repertoire, and jury for BISQC,” says Barry Shiffman, director of BISQC. “In just over a year Banff will again become the focus of the music world as ten extraordinary ensembles perform before our passionate audience and prestigious jury, in a festival-like celebration of music and opportunity. If you are a quartet with dreams of an international performing career, I encourage you to consider applying. If you are a music lover that enjoys community and beauty of place, save the dates and join us for a week unlike any other.”

During the summer of 2024, if you’re in the area, you can enjoy past winners of the BISQ Competition at the BISQFest, held from August 30 to September 1.

The Isidore Quartet (winners) perform during the final round of the 2022 Banff International String Quartet Competition:

The Jury

There are essentially two jury panels, each made up of current and former members of prominent string quartets.

  • 2025 Preliminary Jury: Joshua Gindele (Miró Quartet), Ayane Kozasa (Aizuri Quartet/Kronos Quartet), Guillaume Sutre (Ysaÿe Quartet).
  • 2025 Competition Jury: Eckart Runge (Artemis Quartet), Marie Chilemme (Quatuor Cavatine/Quatuor Ebène), Jonathan Crow (New Orford String Quartet), Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt (Dover Quartet), Honggang Li (Shanghai Quartet), Eugene Drucker (Emerson String Quartet), David Ying (Ying Quartet).

Composer Kati Agócs: Rapprochement

As part of the competition, the string quartets will be performing a newly commissioned work by Canadian composer Kati Agócs titled Rapprochement.

Kati Agócs

Kati Agócs was born in Canada to parents who were Hungarian and American. She studied music, and earned a doctorate and Master’s degrees, from the Juilliard School. She also studied voice privately with Adele Addison. Kati also studied composition at the Aspen Music School, Tanglewood Music Festival, Sarah Lawrence College, and Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific (United World Colleges), where she represented the province of Ontario.

She was a Guggenheim Fellow, and winner of the Arts and Letters Award, the lifetime achievement award in music composition from The American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a two-time JUNO Award nominee for Classical Composition of the Year.

Her work has been commissioned and performed by the Boston Symphony Chamber Players, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Reconsil Vienna, National Youth Orchestra of Canada, Jupiter String Quartet, Continuum, Ensemble Contemporain de Montreal, New Juilliard Ensemble, and the multiple Grammy-award winning Eighth Blackbird, who toured the U.S. with her piece Immutable Dreams.

Continuum Contemporar Music performs her Immutable Dreams:

Kati teaches composition at the New England Conservatory, a role she’s held since 2008, and has a work studio in Flatrock, Newfoundland. Today, Kati Agócs is a citizen of the United States, Canada, and Hungary (European Union).

BISQ Competition 2025

The 15th Banff International String Quartet Competition takes place from August 25 to 31, 2025. BISQC is a member of the World Federation of International Music Competitions and is recognized as one of the premiere chamber music competitions internationally.

Ten young string quartets will compete for more than $500,000 CAD in cash. Along with the cash prize, the Competition fosters career development via touring opportunities, the Southern Methodist University Peak Fellowship Ensemble-in-Residence Prize of a paid residency worth $110,000 CAD, an Esterházy Foundation Residency with concerts at Haydn Hall in Eisenstadt and the Lucerne Festival, coaching, a recording residency, and more.

All non-finalists will receive a Christine and David Anderson Prize of $5,000 CAD, and BISCQC covers all the travel, accommodation, and meal costs for all the quartets invited to compete.

For audiences, it’s a chance to experience unforgettable performances in a stunning natural setting, with gorgeous views of Banff National Park.

The Finals Round

New to the competition in 2025, the competitors themselves will curate the finals round with pieces that they’ve chosen themselves.

The change reflects the reality most chamber ensembles face today, where excellence in performance must be paired with skill in selecting repertoire.

To Apply:

  • For string quartets (any nationality, aged 35 and under): applications will be open for submission between October 1, 2024 and March 1, 2025.
  • Find out more [HERE].

Banff International String Quartet Festival 2024

The Banff International String Quartet Festival takes place from August 30 to September 1, 2024. Developed to fill the gap in the years between Competitions, the Festival showcases BISQC laureates performing with guest musicians.

Director of the Banff International String Quartet Competition Barry Shiffman curates the Festival. While sales have been brisk, there are still tickets available for the opening night, Mozart in the Mountains, featuring violinist James Ehnes, the Ehnes Quartet, and violist Barry Shiffman with the Banff Festival Orchestra.

Find out more [HERE].

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