Four musicians with equally stellar pedigrees formed the New Orford String Quartet with the goal of developing a new model for a touring string quartet. Their concept – to bring four elite orchestral leaders together on a regular basis over many years to perform chamber music at the highest level – has resulted in a quartet that maintains a remarkably fresh perspective while bringing a palpable sense of joy to each performance. The Toronto Star has described this outcome as “nothing short of electrifying.”
Consisting of the concertmasters and principal cellist and violist of the Montreal, Detroit, and Toronto Symphonies, the New Orford String Quartet has seen astonishing success, giving annual concerts for national CBC broadcast and receiving unanimous critical acclaim, including two Opus Awards for Concert of the Year, and a 2017 JUNO Award for Canada’s top Chamber Music Recording. Recent seasons have featured return engagements in Chicago, Montreal and Toronto, as well as their New York City debut on Lincoln Center’s Great Performers series.
The original Orford String Quartet gave its first public concert in 1965, and became one of the best-known and most illustrious chamber music ensembles. After more than 2,000 concerts on six continents, the Orford String Quartet gave its last concert in 1991. Two decades later, in July 2009, the New Orford String Quartet took up this mantle, giving its first concert for a sold-out audience at the Orford Arts Centre. The New Orford has since gone on to perform concerts throughout North America and lead residencies at the University of Toronto, Schulich School of Music, Mount Royal University, and Syracuse University. In September 2017 the Quartet became Ensemble in Residence at the University of Toronto, and was recently named Artistic Directors of the Prince Edward County Music Festival, where they will make their curatorial debut in September 2018.
In 2011, the Quartet recorded its debut album of the final quartets of Schubert and Beethoven, released by Bridge Records to international acclaim. The recording was hailed as one of the top CDs of 2011 by La Presse and CBC In Concert and nominated for a JUNO Award in 2012. Critics have described the recording as “…flawless… a match made in heaven!” (Classical Music Sentinel); “a performance of rare intensity” (Audiophile Audition); and “nothing short of electrifying… listen and weep” (the Toronto Star). Their follow-up album of the Brahms Op.51 Quartets was equally well-received, and received the 2017 JUNO for best chamber music album.
The New Orford is dedicated to promoting Canadian works, both new commissions and neglected repertoire from the previous century. New Orford String Quartet projects have included performances of major Canadian string quartets from the 20th century including works by Glenn Gould, Sir Ernest MacMillan, Jacques Hétu, R. Murray Schafer, and Claude Vivier, as well as commissions of new works from composers such as Francois Dompierre, Gary Kulesha, Airat Ichmouratov and Tim Brady. The Quartet thrives on exploring the rich chamber music repertoire; recent collaborations include those with pianists Marc-André Hamelin and Menahem Pressler.
The Quartet regularly tours in the major cities of North America, including Washington, D.C., Toronto, and Los Angeles; at the same time, the members feel strongly about bringing this music to areas that don’t often hear it, and as a result perform frequently in remote rural locations. As part of their leadership positions at the major orchestras in Montreal, Toronto and Detroit, each member of the Quartet regularly has the opportunity to perform as a soloist with his orchestra. The New Orford String Quartet is Artist in Residence at the University Club of Toronto.