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Cuarteto Casals

Spain's Cuarteto Casals started out ambitious and has only grown more so over its two decades of existence. The quartet has equally cultivated central Classical and Romantic works, especially the quartets of Beethoven, Spanish repertory, and newly commissioned contemporary pieces. Named for cellist Pablo Casals, the quartet was formed in 1997 at the Reina Sofía School of Music in Madrid. The members -- first violinist Vera Martínez Mehner, second violinist Abel Tomàs, violist Jonathan Brown, and cellist Arnau Tomas -- were students of Antonello Farulli, and they undertook further study in Barcelona and then in Cologne, Germany, with the Alban Berg Quartet. The studies resulted in a pair of major competition first prizes at the London International String Quartet Competition in 2000 and the International Brahms Competition in Hamburg in 2002. The group has appeared at such halls as the Philharmonie in Berlin, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, the Musikverein in Vienna, New York's Carnegie Hall, and London's Wigmore Hall, where it has received strong critical praise from the British press. The quartet's concerts have included new works by the likes of Christian Lauba, György Kurtág, Jordi Cervelló, James MacMillan, and David del Puerto. In 2008, the Cuarteto Casals earned an award from London's Borletti-Buitoni Trust that allowed the members to purchase a matching set of Classical-era bows, a major contributor to the homogeneous sound that has become the quartet's trademark. First and second violinists Mehner and Abel Tomàs are able, unusually, to exchange roles at times. Beginning with a recording of quartets by Juan Crisóstomo Arriaga in 2003, the Cuarteto Casals has recorded exclusively for the Harmonia Mundi label. The quartet's recordings have included works by Debussy, Mozart, Brahms, Haydn, Schubert, Luigi Boccherini during his Spanish period, various contemporary composers, and, from 2018 to 2020, a complete cycle of Beethoven's string quartets, which the group also presented in a European tour in concerts where the Beethoven works were paired with new pieces composed especially for the occasion. The recipients of Spain's National Music Prize, the Cuarteto Casals served as quartet-in-residence at the Barcelona Conservatory. In 2021, the quartet released an album featuring three of Mozart's Six Quartets Dedicated to Haydn, returning in 2023 with a string quartet adaptation of Bach's The Art of Fugue, BWV 1080.
© James Manheim /TiVo
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