The Violin Channel recently caught up with the 2019 Banff International String Quartet Competition joint-1st prize winning ensemble, the Colburn School-based Viano String Quartet.
Comprising violinists Hao Zhou and Lucy Wang, violist Aiden Kane and cellist Tate Zawadiuk, the Vianos are former major prize winners at the Wigmore Hall, Osaka and Fischoff International String Quartet Competitions.
VIANO STRING QUARTET | BEETHOVEN | STRING QUARTET NO. 14 IN C# MINOR OP. 131 | 4TH MVT | 2019 BANFF INTERNATIONAL STRING QUARTET COMPETITION | JOINT 1ST PRIZE
Woot! How does it feel to be a 1st prize winning ensemble from the illustrious Banff International String Quartet Competition?
"We feel absolutely ecstatic, lucky, and exhilarated! .... we’ve known about BISQC for years and are delighted to be sharing the honor with our friends the Marmen Quartet - who we have known since 2017"
What do you feel will be your most vivd memory from your ground-breaking week in Banff?
"We have many wonderful memories from BISQC! ... the breathtaking sight of the mountains surrounding Banff, reading quartets with fellow competitors and friends on a makeshift baroque stage in the Banff Centre campus bistro and bar, and the incredible feeling of performing throughout the competition for such a dedicated audience made for a marvelous experience.
Our fondest memory is the moment Marmen and Viano realized that we shared both the First Prize and the Canadian Commission Prize!"
Where did you get the name 'Viano' from? And how did you come together as a quartet?
"We formed at the Colburn Conservatory of Music in 2015 ... each student is required to perform a chamber music audition when they arrive for their degree.
It just so happened that Lucy, Hao, Tate, and, at the time, a different violist were placed together in a quartet.
About a year and a half later, when our original violist left the group, we were delighted to invite the wonderful Aiden to join our team—the rest is history.
The term “Viano” was created as a way to describe the four individual instruments in a string quartet interacting as one ... each of the four instruments begins with the letter “v”, and like a piano, all four string instruments together play both harmony and melody, creating a unified instrument called the 'Viano'"
What are the most important lessons you feel you have learnt as an ensemble from your preparation for BISQC?
"Artistic commitment is one of the most critical aspects of a performance ... in our preparation for BISQC we learned to commit wholeheartedly to our ideas, and that it’s okay to have disagreements so long as we’re prepared to communicate to overcome our differences.
Most importantly, we were reminded that playing music is fun! This is an essential bit of information that we all need to be reminded of from time to time"
What tips do you have for practicing to help achieve the incredible synchronization your ensemble displayed this week?
"There are many ways to achieve playing together as an ensemble ... for us, the most important element is allowing the role of leadership to be passed around to each member of the quartet depending on the given passage.
To discover who leads where, we spend time in rehearsal trying out various ways of adjusting the leadership position until we find the right one for us.
For every quartet, their system will be different — it is a matter of experimenting to see what works best. Even though there is leadership in a quartet, our philosophy is that nobody is ever following.
We are always playing with one another, regardless of who gives the cue ... this allows everyone to better play to their strengths and allows for spontaneity onstage rather than a prepackaged interpretation"
What advice do you have for keeping one’s focus on the music - even under the stressful situation of a competition?
"For us, we find it useful to all agree on a particular goal for any given performance.
Each of us also have our own pre-concert routines that help us prepare mentally and physically, but as a group we all believe that a key element to a good performance is sharing a moment of light-hearted humor prior to walking on stage.
The smiles we share remind us of how lucky we are to play music together!"
Who has been the Viano’s most influential mentors and inspirations?
"We have been fortunate to work with so many wonderful musicians ... our most influential mentors have been Martin Beaver and Clive Greensmith from the Tokyo String Quartet and Arnold Steinhardt of the Guarneri String Quartet.
We are extremely grateful to all of the faculty at Colburn who have offered us tremendous support and inspiration"
Away from your instruments, what do the four of you enjoy doing together?
"As a quartet we enjoy going to restaurants together, and at Banff we went for several quartet hikes.
Outside of rehearsal we find it healthy to have a break from one another - especially during a competition or a busy tour"
What does the future hold for the Vianos? What is the ensemble's career purpose?
"This year we start our two year period as the Ensemble-in-Residence at the Colburn Conservatory of Music.
We hope that, with our first prize win at BISQC, we can continue to pursue our goal of becoming an international traveling quartet with a full concert schedule.
In addition to our love for performing in concert halls around the world, we are also passionate about producing performances geared toward audiences that are new to classical music ... we believe that it is the responsibility of artists of our generation to bring attention to classical music"