The Stratos Quartett was founded in early 2013 by four young musicians who had become acquainted at the University of Music and performing Arts Vienna. It was not long before the piano quartet gave its first public performance, at Finland's Turku Music Festival in the summer of 2013. Shortly thereafter, in September, the Stratos Quartett impressively took 1st Prize in the chamber music category at the 20th International Johannes Brahms Competition in Pörtschach. They unequivocally won over both the jury and the audience, and were also awarded the Special Prize of the Neues Künstlerforum. In the same year the quartet received another award winning the "Windisch Chamber Music Prize".
Another highlight after a successful audition in October 2013 was being the first - and until now - only piano quartet named a member of the ECMA (European Chamber Music Academy). This offers the young musicians the possibility to work with renowned chamber musicians and professors such as Hatto Beyerle, Johannes Meissl, Jerome Pernoo, Heime Müller, Michel Lethiec and many others.
Each of the ensemble's four members has won multiple prizes at national and international competitions, and they can all boast an impressive range of past concert activities as soloists, chamber musicians, and orchestral musicians. These young musicians, from the three nations of Finland, Austria and the Czech Republic, take great joy in channelling their individual experiences and approaches to create a common sound, as well as in making the piano quartet more familiar to a broader-than-ever audience alongside the dominant chamber music genres of the string quartet and the piano trio.
Highlights for 2015/16 include their debut recitals in Vienna Musikverein, Brucknerhaus Linz, Wigmore Hall London, concerts at the Harmos Festival in Portugal and the recording of their first CD in Konzerthaus Wien.
The genre of the piano quartet, though not terribly novel at first glance, is a rare one to be appreciated and perfected by permanent ensembles. There are countless string quartets on tour as well as a healthy number of piano trios and innumerable string and piano duos. This has much to do with the available literature; although there are a healthy number of works written for this particular combination. For this reason, and many others, it was refreshing to hear a very surefooted rendition of the Schumann as well as works by Suk and Popelka on Wednesday evening in one of the four "Neue Säle" of the Musikverein performed by an up-and-coming ensemble.
The Stratos Quartett exploded out of the gate with the seldom-performed Piano Quartet in A minor Op.1 by Czech composer, violinist and chamber musician Josef Suk. Suk was a student (and later son-in-law) of Antonin Dvořák. The work sounds like Dvořák and was incredibly enjoyable from the bravura of the opening Allegro appassionato, through the gorgeous dripping nature scenes in the Adagio, winding up with a passionate, dramatically and texturally exciting Allegro con fuoco. It is great music... The quartet demonstrated wonderful communication and ensemble, hitting the right blend of polish and energy. The ensemble lands very well together and the players definitely know their way around the romantic repertoire – this was a very well thought through rendition of a gorgeous piece of literature.
The Schumann was brilliant and fun! Everyone's sound had opened up beautifully, which we fully appreciated in the Andante cantabile. Technical proficiency and brilliant clarity prevailed without ever feeling staid or overcautious through the quicker movements, and the Scherzo and Finale were taken at risky clips without the slightest sense of danger. Bravo!