Penderecki String Quartet

An early version of the group, first formed in Poland and then called the New Szymanowski Quartet, won a special prize at a 1986 competition in Lodz for its performance of Quartet No. 2 by Krysztof Penderecki. The composer, who served as one of the judges, invited the quartet to take his name.

Penderecki String Quartet

 The Penderecki String Quartet became the quartet-in-residence at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont. in 1991. Celebrating their 25th anniversary season in 2012, the quartet has earned international recognition and become one of this country's most respected chamber ensembles.


An early version of the group, first formed in Poland and then called the New Szymanowski Quartet, won a special prize at a 1986 competition in Lodz for its performance of Quartet No. 2 by Krysztof Penderecki. The composer, who served as one of the judges, invited the quartet to take his name. The ensemble went on to the USA where they were affiliated with the University of Wisconsin (1988-91), before establishing a permanent base at Wilfrid Laurier University (1991). Its members have continued to teach and coach at the Faculty of Music.

Personnel and Collaborations

In 2012, the quartet was made up of violinists Jeremy Bell (joined 1999, replacing Piotr Buczek) and Jerzy Kaplanek (a member since 1987), violist Christine Vlajk (began 1997), and cellist Jacob Braun (joined 2009). Earlier violists have included Yariv Aloni and Dov Scheindlin. Among cellists Paul Pulford was succeeded by Simon Fryer (2003-2009).

The quartet has collaborated with a wide variety of ensembles, instrumentalists, singers, and other performers, including Valdene Anderson, Atar Arad, Martin Beaver, the Borodin Trio, Jane Bunnett, James Campbell, DJ Spooky, Anne-Marie Donovan, Luba Dubinsky, David Earle, Vladimir Feltsman, Janina Fialkowska, the Fine Arts Quartet, Stan Fisher, Colin Fox, Rachel Gauk, Francine Kay, Antonio Lysy, Jeremy Menuhin, Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi, Monica Whicher, and Ching Wong.

The Globe & Mail has referred to the quartet's "remarkable range of technical excellence and emotional sweep," and Fanfare magazine referred to it as "an ensemble of formidable power and keen musical sensitivity."

International Stature

The Penderecki String Quartet grew to international stature, and has performed in venues throughout the US (New York, Boston, Washington, New Haven, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Bloomington, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Portland, Seattle), Canada (Montreal, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto), Latin America (Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela's Festival Internacional de Musica), Europe (London, Paris, Berlin, Leipzig, Salzburg, Rome, Sienna, Madrid, Amsterdam, Prague, St. Petersburg, Rome, Belgrade, Zagreb, Lithuania, Warsaw, the Krakow Festival), and Asia (the Musicarama Festival Hong Kong and the Shanghai International Arts Festival). It participates in Waterloo's Festival of String Quartets (QuartetFest), which combines performances with a month-long seminar on quartet playing for string students.


The Penderecki String Quartet has focussed on contemporary chamber music compositions by Penderecki, Silesian composer Aleksander Lason, Japan's Toshio Hosokawa, György Kurtág, Benjamin Britten, Bartók, Shostakovich, Bacewicz, and Schnittke. In addition, the quartet has commissioned, performed, and/or recorded works by various Canadian (and Canadian-based) composers, including Glenn Buhr, Brian Cherney, Barbara Croall, Omar Daniel, Alfred Fisher, Harry Freedman, Peter Hatch, Alice Ho, Raymond Luedeke, Bruce Mather, Randolph Peters, Linda C. Smith, and Gilles Tremblay. They have received financial assistance from the Canada Council, the Laidlaw Foundation, the CBC, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Hong Kong Arts Development Council.

The group has recorded the authoritative interpretation of Penderecki's complete works for string quartet on CD (United Records, England). In the late 1990s, the quartet twice presented the complete cycle of Bartók's string quartets, which it then recorded in the early 2000s. They have recorded for Centre Discs, Marquis Classics, EMI Music Canada, Artifact Music, and Eclectra. One of its most celebrated recordings is the Brahms Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34, with Russian pianist Lev Natochenny.

Selected Discography

Brahms. Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34, with Lev Natochenny. Tritonus 1993, Marquis.

Britten and Shostakovich. Quartets No. 3 (op. 94 and 73). Marquis.

Peters. "Tango" (1991). NMM.

Fisher. "Diary of a War Artist" for Clarinet and String Quartet, with Stan Fisher. Images/CBC.

Freedman. Chamber Music for String Quartet and Voice, (Valdene Anderson, Monica Whitcher). Centrediscs.

Complete Bartok String Quartets. ECCD.

The Winds of Thera. Centrediscs 2007.

Launchpad. Centrediscs 2008.

Further Reading

  • Denton, David. Review of Brahms Piano Quintet in F minor, op. 34. The Strad, Nov 1993.

    Todd, Richard. "Concert features 20th-century Polish music." Ottawa Citizen, 25 Apr 1996.

    Mangan, Timothy. "Penderecki Quartet Makes the Difficult Seem Easy." Los Angeles Times, 19 Mar 1998.

    Johnson, Colleen. "Quartet, pianist put on dream concert." Kitchener, The Record, 28 Jan 1999.

    Pulker, Allan. "NuMuFest: The Penderecki Connection", WholeNote Nov 2001.

    Hung, Eric. "Launchpad. Penderecki String Quartet," CAML Review, vol 37 # 1 Apr 2009.

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