Distinguished by its virtuosity, probing musical insight, and impassioned, fiery performances, the Ariel Quartet has garnered critical praise worldwide over the span of nearly two decades. Formed in Israel as teenagers at the Jerusalem Academy Middle School of Music and Dance and celebrating their 20th anniversary in 2020-21, the Ariel was named recipient of the prestigious Cleveland Quartet Award, granted by Chamber Music America in recognition of artistic achievement and career support. The ensemble serves as the Faculty Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, where they direct the chamber-music program and present a concert series in addition to maintaining a busy touring schedule in the United States and abroad.
During the 2019-20 season, the Ariel Quartet will perform in New York, San Antonio, and La Jolla, where they will continue their multi-season Beethoven cycle. The Quartet will spend a week each at the Northwest Bach Festival in Spokane and at the Sitka Music Festival in Alaska, and will close out the season with a performance at the National Gallery of Art with Alexander Fiterstein, with whom they also premiered a major new work by Christopher Theofanidis at the Manchester Music Festival in the summer of 2019. Other recent engagements include concerts for Calgary Pro Musica, at the Mannes School of Music in New York, for Music Toronto, and at the Shriver Hall Concert Series at John Hopkins University in Baltimore. At the Linton Chamber Music Series in Cincinnati the Ariel gave the U.S. premiere of the Quintet for Piano and Strings by Daniil Trifonov, with the composer as pianist.
The ensemble has dedicated much of its artistic energy and musical prowess to the groundbreaking Beethoven quartets, and has performed the complete Beethoven cycle on five occasions throughout the United States and Europe. The Quartet has written a powerful and comprehensive series of program notes on the sixteen quartets, open to the public on their website. The Ariel Quartet regularly collaborates with today’s eminent and rising young musicians and ensembles, including pianist Orion Weiss, violist Roger Tapping, cellist Paul Katz, and the American, Pacifica, and Jerusalem String Quartets. The Quartet has toured with cellist Alisa Weilerstein and performed frequently with pianists Jeremy Denk and Menahem Pressler. In addition, the Ariel served as Quartet-in-Residence for the Steans Music Institute at the Ravinia Festival, the Yellow Barn Music Festival, and the Perlman Music Program, as well as the Ernst Stiefel String Quartet-in-Residence at the Caramoor Festival.
Formerly the resident ensemble of the Professional String Quartet Training Program at the New England Conservatory, from which the players obtained their undergraduate and graduate degrees, the Ariel was mentored extensively by acclaimed string quartet giants Walter Levin and Paul Katz. It has won numerous international prizes in addition to the Cleveland Quartet Award: Grand Prize at the 2006 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition and the Székely Prize for the performance of Bartók’s String Quartet No. 4, and Third Prize at the Banff International String Quartet Competition. About its performances at the Banff competition, the American Record Guide described the group as “a consummate ensemble gifted with utter musicality and remarkable interpretive power” and noted, in particular, their playing of Beethoven’s monumental Quartet in A minor, Op. 132, as “the pinnacle of the competition.”
The Ariel Quartet has received significant support for its studies in the United States from the American-Israel Cultural Foundation, Dov and Rachel Gottesman, the Legacy Heritage Fund and the A.N. and Pearl G. Barnett Family Foundation. The members of the Ariel Quartet are graduates of the Young Musician’s unit of the Jerusalem Music Centre.
The Balourdet Quartet is an award winning, dynamic ensemble that takes creative risks on stage, producing both emotionally intense and touching, intimate moments. It enjoys a unique closeness and an unwavering sense of team trust. The 2022-23 season highlights included the Balourdet’s debut at Carnegie Hall, and a new string quartet by Karim Al-Zand, commissioned with a grant from Chamber Music America and a world-premiere in London’s Wigmore Hall.
For the 2023-24 season, the Balourdet has a full year of nearly 60 concerts, residencies, and exciting projects scheduled. They have been reinvited to the La Jolla Music Society, Montgomery Chamber Music, Pro Musica San Miguel, and have debuts in Atlanta, Memphis, Houston, and San Antonio. Collaborations include pianists Marc-André Hamelin, Simone Dinnerstein, and violist Jordan Bak. They begin year-long residencies at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music and with the Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle in North Carolina.
The Balourdet journey began in 2018 in the mountains of New Mexico at the Taos School of Music, where violinists Justin DeFilippis, Angela Bae, and cellist Russell Houston first bonded as friends over long evenings of chamber music, luxurious Peppermint Schnapps and extravagant meals created by chef extraordinaire Antoine Balourdet, a renaissance man with an exceptional love of life and music. It was the friendships, a shared passion for music and food, and gratitude for the role the festival played in the formation of the quartet, that inspired the members to name the ensemble in Chef Balourdet’s honor.
Soon thereafter, in the heat of a waning Texas summer, Justin, Angela, and Russell joined with violist Benjamin Zannoni of Rice University, and the Balourdet Quartet was formed. Inspired by their love for the repertoire and the excitement of having found each other, the four friends found themselves playing quartets late into the night for fun. After having been together for only one year at Rice University, and a summer at the Aspen Music Festival, they took second prize at the Nielsen International String Quartet Competition, and were selected as the only quartet admitted to Boston’s prestigious New England Conservatory Professional String Quartet Program under the tutelage of Cleveland Quartet cellist Paul Katz.
In 2021, the Quartet won the Grand Prize at New York’s Concert Artists Guild Competition, which included joint management by Concert Artists Guild in the U.S., and Young Classical Artist’s Trust (YCAT) in the UK and Europe. In addition, the Balourdet has been prizewinners in Canada’s Banff International String Quartet Competition, the International Premio Paolo Borciani Competition in Italy, Gold Medal winners at the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, and Gold Medal and Audience Prizewinners at the Yellow Springs Competition.
“so electrifying was this young, ebullient foursome that anything could be allowed…It was an outward love affair played with love…winning from this most winning ensemble.”
– The Classical Music Network
“The technically accomplished and assured Balourdet Quartet is already adept at transmitting the
emotions of notes on the pages” – The Boston Musical Intelligencer
“teeming with integrity and purpose” – The Violin Channel
“the Balourdet Quartet poured forth superb sounds with exhilarating hints of Romantic style and passion…” – Seen and Heard International
“youthful exuberance…seamless music making” – In the Spotlight