New Orford Quartet bows to the greats

Since bringing the The New Orford String Quartet back to life, the stars of the classical music field will be playing in Penticton.

New Orford String Quartet members are playing a concert in Penticton this Friday at the Cleland Theatre.

New Orford String Quartet members are playing a concert in Penticton this Friday at the Cleland Theatre.

After an 18-year hiatus, four talented musicians resurrected one of Canada’s best-known and most illustrious musical ensembles.

“We had just one concert in our first year (2009) and it was a lot of fun. Ever since then everything has blown up. We went from one concert that year to three years later and performing 30 concerts,” said violinist Andrew Wan. “We had an instant spark together.”

Since bringing the The New Orford String Quartet back to life, the foursome has had astonishing success and the stars of the classical music field will be playing in Penticton at the Cleland Theatre as part of the Penticton Community Concert series on Friday.

Wan, who is the concert master for the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, has played in hallowed venues such as Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center and said coming to corners of Canada where they have smaller theatres is just as welcomed.

“It’s awesome. The audiences are really fantastic and they are not only knowledgeable but very enthusiastic. You can feel the enthusiasm and actually it really rubs off on us and is quite exciting,” said Wan. “Playing in these smaller rooms and venues is the way the music was actually intended to be played. It is an intimate setting that I really enjoy personally.”

Wan performs on a Michel’Angelo Bergonzi violin built in 1744 that is on loan from the David Sela Collection. The violin is from the Italian city of Cremona and the luthier’s father lived next door to Antonio Stradivari. Wan had his choice of 18 violins flown in from around the world. He took them to a variety of concert halls in Montreal to test them out and an informal jury of peers helped him with his decision.

“It is incredible to have someone support the arts like this and make it so I can use an instrument that otherwise I would never be able to afford. We all have our own idiosyncrasies as musicians and this really fit my personality,” said Wan. “I feel like it has the type of sound that I always had in my head that I wanted to make. I personally love these older Italian instruments because it is so exquisitely made and so well preserved. It tells a story after 300 years of someone breathing onto it and leaving their mark on it. It is incredible.”

The New Orford Quartet, which consists of Wan, Jonathan Crow on violin, Eric Nowlin on viola and Brian Manker on cello, has received two Opus Awards for Concert of the Year, applause from critics and a 2012 Juno nomination. All of the members are principal players in the Montreal and Toronto symphony orchestras who came together to revolutionize the concept of string quartet playing in Canada.

“This is a completely different skill-set. We all love the variety and this repertoire is amazing,” said Wan. “We are all equal members and it is really humbling for us because we are leaders of our sections and are used to a certain amount of say of how things are going to be done. With the quartet there is a lot of discussion making it a completely different dynamic.”

The members provide a fresh perspective on interpretations of standard string quartet repertoire and are dedicated to promoting Canadian works. At the Penticton concert, New Orford are playing music that spans over 225 years from Haydn to Beethoven and a modern piece from Canadian composer Jacque Hétu. The New Orford String Quartet is performing at 7:30 p.m. (doors open at 6:45 p.m.) at the Cleland Theatre as part of a 16-concert tour in Western Canada. Individual tickets for this, and all, Penticton Community Concerts can be purchased at the Shatford Centre. Prices are $30 for adults and $5 for students. Tickets are available at the door as well.

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