Reviews

Aldeburgh parish church, where Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears are buried was the setting for this recital by the Vertavo String Quartet. This Norwegian ensemble, with the English violinist Annabelle Meare in its line-up brought a further Scandinavian inflection with the performance of the Fourth Quartet by the Danish composer Poul Ruders, one of the anniversary commissions jointly funded by the Britten-Pears Foundation and the Royal Philharmonic Society, first aired by Vertavo in London in March.

Ruders described his opening as a portal to the rest of the work, and its alternating jagged stabs and quiet questioning pauses are recurring elements in the sequence of five movements. While the hurtling pell-mell of both Scherzo and Presto provided a wild, often frenetic, counterbalance, it was the essentiallysearching nature of Ruders' central Adagio Sognante and the final Adagio that imprinted itself on the ear. In thse, the depiction of a liminal soundworld, with its haunting harmonics, was invested with a ghostly calm by the Vertavo.

It is the mark of truly fine musicians that a particular interpretation will colour the other works in their programme and, after the Ruders, the Vertavo brought a hushed, otherworldly, feel to the opening of Mozart's Dissonance Quartet. In a carefully understated way, the rest of the work took on an extra lightness and grace.

That muted quality was carried through to the Britten. Yet, it was the sheer theatricality of the final Chacony that underlined the quartet's link with Peter Grimes, written just before it, and thus with one of Aldeburgh's connecting threads this year. The 21 variations on the Passacaglia are punctured with cadenzas for cello, viola and violin in turn and these anguished outbursts were delivered with passionate conviction by the Vertao players. It made for a forceful climax.

Rian Evans, The Guardian
June 2013

The pieces that stood out were those that couldn't be pigeonholed as radical or conservative. One of them was Poul Ruders's 4th string quartet, co-commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Society and the Britten-Pears Foundation. Played with a thrilling ironfist-in-velvet-glove touch by the Vertavo Quartet, it was a miracle of stylistic lightfootedness.

Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph
March 2013

The Ruders was better framed, coming at the end of a superb concert by the wonderful Norwegian Vertavo Quartet, which included Hans Abrahamsen's skittish Third Quartet alongside characterful recent pieces by Finnish composers Kaija Saariaho and Jouni Kaipainen. The Ruders, a joint commission by the Britten-Pears Foundation and the Royal Philharmonic Society in honour of their various centenaries and bicentenaries, was delightful from beginning to end. Particularly remarkable was the way the accumulated energy of each movement found release in the character of the next, leaving one with an irrepressible sense of lightness of being.

Guy Dammann, The Guardian
March 2013

The second of Schoenberg's four quartets was given by the Vertavo Quartet, four (female) Norwegians, whose reading combined passion and clarity, intellect and emotion, in true Schoenbergian fashion.

Paul Driver, The Sunday Times

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The Three Pieces of Stravinsky were written in 1914, and for their time, they were certainly revolutionary. From the opening bars, I realised that the Vertavo Quartet knew this material not only intimately, but actually identified with it. They knew exactly how to adapt to the character of each piece … Absolute genius!

Mundoclásico

They are a group of the highest order; equipped with all the qualities that the best quartets should have.

Nobuhiro Ito, Asahi Evening Newspaper

They have a sense of synthesis that comes of playing together for so long and so frequently, and a young energy that renders their highly polished sound to be elegant without being stuffy.

Rebecca C Howard, Desert Morning News, Salt Lake City

The whole concert was treasurable, the musicianship impeccable, and over all shone the extraordinary beauty of the Vertavo players' tone. May the quartet return, soon and often.

Philippa Kiraly, Seattle Post Intelligencer

The quartet went on to show off its credentials in Grieg's intensely lyrical Quartet No. 1. Soulful and with moments of haunting beauty, this work of melodic inspiration received a singularly compelling reading, its Nordic soul warm and plangent. Vertavo brilliantly brought out the work's almost symphonic yearnings, and capture with conviction, the piece's singing character. With dizzying shifts in dynamics and an emphasis on sharp contrasts, this in its own fashion was as challenging s the riotous Bartok that has preceded it.

J.H. Stape, Vancouver Post

Having followed the career of the young Norwegians since they walked away with every prize on offer at the Melbourne competition a decade ago, their long overdue first visit to Sheffield confirms the Vertavo's status among today's top five string quartets. Their playing is so unfussy and devoid of showmanship, but is blessed with the most perfect technique and faultless intonation. They are an impeccable ensemble with inner transparency and, above all, the desire to be part of a team.

David Denton, Yorkshire Post

From the very first bar, the listener was drawn in and carried along by the energy that the Vertavo Quartet invested in every phrase.  The four Norwegians wrested an enormous amount of subtlest detail from the pieces through their powerful playing, simultaneously as sensitive and as finely wrought as a spider's web, capable of switching immediately from hammering fortissimo to whispering piano. They played with an extraordinary degree of inner tension that gripped the audience throughout.

Rolf-Peter Diehl, Cellesche Zeitung

Sometimes three minutes are enough to make an audience grateful; grateful for experiencing something so joyful. This is exactly what happened at the performance of the entirely female Vertavo Quartet in the Curio-Haus: in the three-minute melancholic Sarabande by Anatoly Liadow, these charismatic Norwegians seemed to stroke each note tenderly with their bows. They made this somewhat light work sound like a masterpiece through their heartfelt and intense legato and we wished that time could stop. But there was even more show of their proficiency and ability of interpretation to come. With an almost drilling intensity, the musicians performed the sharp and squarely accentuated 9th Quartet by Per Nørgård, which reminds one of Bartok's rhythmical complexity. No less exciting was the second half, when they played Dvorak's Quartet Op 106. Here, the Vertavos created fireworks with their tangible joy in playing: it is moments like these that make music truly magical.

Hamburger Abenblatt

Norway's Vertavo Quartet are fast establishing themselves as one of the freshest and most versatile young quartets around. Their rock and jazz collaborations suggest parallels with the Kronos Quartet, and, like them, the Vertavo have a very distinctive sound. But what impresses most is the integrity and imagination they bring to their playing. There cannot have been many performances of Schubert's Rosamunde Quartet as unremittingly dark as this one. Even the lyrical andante was played with a choked intensity that questioned its innocence, and the trio section of the menuetto was similarly oppressed - a strong rubato dispelling any illusion of security by shifting the ground from under its own feet. The troubled spirit of this work was close to the surface in a way that could appear extreme: when warmth and lyricism are constantly negated, poignancy is also lost. Overall though, there was much to admire, and this was a performance with real vision. But it was in Janacek's First Quartet that they came into their own. Based on Tolstoy's Kreutzer Sonata, the work oscillates between irrational violence and fragile tenderness. With phenomenal expressive flexibility, the Vertavo moved from warmest sensuality to knife-edge brittleness. The real revelation came at the end, where a sudden move to the major almost suggests a final uplift. It resonated with a anguished, insane hysteria that made a shattering impact.

Pauline Fairclough, The Guardian

But the Norwegians with their flair, their physicality and their communicative urgency, were the most compelling chamber ensemble I have heard in years.

Norman Lebrecht, The Daily Telegraph

Present, enormously together, the whole time mentally and musically on the edge: every tone, every phrase had this little extra kick and twist giving the music form and colour.

Peter Larsen, Bergens Tidende

But the garlands must go to the Vertavo Quartet, an all-female ensemble from Norway. They threw themselves at the Bartók Fourth Quartet, taking its ferocious difficulties in their stride with a raw, primal force that immediately raised the hairs on the neck.

Martin Anderson, The Independent

The audience sat gobsmacked as the dying echo of Beethoven's Quartet in C sharp minor faded in the cavernous reaches of the Melbourne Concert Hall on Saturday night ... When everyone came to, the audience reaction was over-the-top by Melbourne standards: people stood, people whistled, people shouted.

Miriam Cosic, The Sydney Morning Herald
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News

Vertavofestivalen

Vertavo are excited to launch a new festival venture, based in the Modum and Eiker areas in south-east Norway. The first festival takes place at the end of September 2016. Watch vertavofestivalen.com for more details!

2016 concerts

Vertavo are looking forward this year to concerts in Romania, China, Sweden, the UK and of course many in Norway. Check their Concerts page to see where to catch them. Godt nytt år!

30th Anniversary

At the end of October 2014, Vertavo celebrate their 30th Anniversary. They formed back in 1984 (barely teenagers at the time...), and have been performing and recording and teaching ever since. As they say in Norway, "Gratulerer!"

Elverum Festival 1- 10 August 2014

As Artistic Directors of Festspillene i Elverum, Vertavo are thrilled to be a part of this vibrant and eclectic Norwegian festival which is celebrating its 40th year. They will be performing as a quartet and also collaborating with many great international artists, including Razvan Popovici, Roland Pontinen and Paul Lewis. Find out more at www.fie.no

Tour with Paul Lewis

Vertavo are greatly looking forward to a tour with the renowned British pianist, Paul Lewis, in the autumn of 2014. UK venues to include Wigmore Hall, Perth Concert Hall, Bath Assembly Rooms, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall and Manchester RNCM. They will also play at other European and US venues. More details will follow on the concert page soon.

Ruders' Quartet at the Aldeburgh Festival

The Ruders Quartet will also be performed as part of the Aldeburgh Festival, when Vertavo play a recital there on 10 June 2013. On that occasion, it will be partnered by Mozart's Dissonance Quartet and Britten's Second Quartet.

World premiere of Ruders' Fourth String Quartet

In March 2013, Vertavo Quartet gave the world premiere of Poul Ruders' Fourth String Quartet at the Barbican Hall in London. This was a joint commission by the Royal Philharmonic Society and the Britten-Pears Foundation. It was played as part of the BBC Symphony Orchestra's one-day festival of contemporary Danish and Finnish composers: New from the North.