The Zorá String Quartet won First Prize in the 2015 Young Concert Artists International Auditions. They also won the Sander Buchman Award, which sponsors their New York debut, and four concert prizes: the Friends of Music Concerts Prize (Connecticut), the Hayden's Ferry Chamber Music Series Prize (AZ), the Paramount Theatre Prize (VT), and the Vancouver Recital Society Prize. The Quartet was named the Grand Prize and Gold Medal Winner of the 42nd Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition and the Coleman-Barstow Prize winner at the Coleman National Chamber Music Competition in 2015. As a result of winning the Fischoff Competition, they toured the Midwest and appeared at the 2016 Emilia Romagna Festival in Italy. The Zorá String Quartet has performed in U.S., Canada, and Europe, at venues including the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, Duke’s Hall at Royal Academy of Music in England.
In the summer of 2015, Zorá String Quartet was a part of Chamber Music Residency at the Banff Centre and Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. Zorá String Quartet also participated at the Center for Advanced Quartet Studies of the Aspen Music Festival in the summer of 2014 and worked intensively with Earl Carlyss, Takács Quartet, Pacifica Quartet, and the American String Quartet. Zorá String Quartet also performed in master classes for London Haydn Quartet, Keith Robinson, Koichiro Harada, members of Cleveland Quartet, The Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma and Noah Bendix-Balgley.
Zorá String Quartet has collaborated with the Pulitzer-prize-winning American composer Caroline Shaw to perform her works with the NOTUS Contemporary Ensemble in Fall 2013. In Spring 2014, Zorá String Quartet was selected as the string quartet in residence to perform and study manuscripts at the Beethoven-Haus in Bonn, Germany.
Zorá String Quartet members hold graduate degrees in performance and chamber music from the Jacobs School of Music in Indiana University and were part of the Jacobs School of Music’s prestigious Chamber Music Performer’s Diploma from 2014-16. Some of their most influential mentors include the Pacifica Quartet, Atar Arad, Kevork Mardirossian, Eric Kim, and Grigory Kalinovsky.
Zorá String Quartet aspire to educate individual students, serve as a mentor for collegiate-level string quartets of Indiana University, and initiate active outreach projects in Bloomington to introduce new audiences to chamber music. Part of the non-profit organization, Zorá String Quartet has worked with Reimagining Opera For Kids (ROK) and performs in the Wylie House Museum, Waldron Arts Center, and the Art Museum of IU Bloomington to bridge the gap better with the local community. In 2017, through Curtis Institute of Music's Community Artist Program (CAP), the Zorá started a string quartet program at the Vare-Washington School, a K-8 school in South Philadelphia.
Zorá String Quartet is currently the Graduate Quartet in Residence at the Curtis Institute of Music, where they work closely with Shmuel Ashkenasi, Arnold Steinhardt, Pamela Frank, Steven Tenenbom, Peter Wiley and Mia Chung.
The name “Zorá" was chosen by Bulgarian professor Kevork Mardirossian; it means "sunrise" in Bulgarian.
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The Zorá String Quartet leapt into national attention in 2015 when they won three major awards: the Young Concert Artists International Auditions, the Grand Prize and Gold Medal of the Fischoff Chamber Music Competition, and the Coleman Chamber Music Competition in California. They were also awarded the Sander Buchman Debut Prize of Young Concert Artists and five concert prizes. As a result of winning the Fischoff Competition, they toured the Midwest and appeared at the 2016 Emilia Romagna Festival in Italy. In 2016, they were honored as the Quartet-in-Residence at the Curtis Institute of Music.
The Quartet, recently named “The future of chamber music” in a concert review in Oregon ArtsWatch, met while studying at Indiana University. After they had been playing together for one year, they became the Quartet-in- Residence at the University in 2014.
This season, the Zorá makes its New York and Washington, DC debuts in the Young Concert Artists Series and also performs at U.S. venues, including Chamber Music Wilmington in North Carolina, the Lied Center of Kansas, the Paramount Theatre in Vermont, Rockefeller University in New York, Hayden’s Ferry Chamber Music Series in Arizona, University of Florida Performing Arts, the Schneider Concert Series at the New School in New York, the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in Illinois, and with Curtis on Tour in the Northeast.
The Quartet was selected to participate in the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s Chamber Music Encounters program in June 2016 at Alice Tully Hall. The Zorá appeared at the Chamber Music Northwest Festival and the Oregon Music Festival. In 2014, they participated in Chamber Music Residencies at the Banff Centre in Canada, the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival in Connecticut, and the Center for Advanced Quartet Studies at the Aspen Music Festival.
In the spring of 2014, the Quartet was given the opportunity to be the String Quartet-in-Residence to perform and study manuscripts at the Beethoven-Haus in Bonn, Germany. The Zorá collaborated with Pulitzer-Prize-winning American composer Caroline Shaw and the NOTUS Contemporary Ensemble in fall 2013.
The Quartet’s members earned Chamber Music Performer’s Diplomas from the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, and also served as the Graduate Quartet in Residence. The name “Zorá” was chosen by violin professor Kevork Mardirossian at Indiana University; it means "sunrise" in Bulgarian.
Calgary Herald (Stephan Bonfield) - June 22, 2015 "The Zorá String Quartet have been quartet-in-residence at two different places in their home country of the U.S. and consist of Dechopol Kowintaweewat and Seula Lee, violins, Pablo Muñoz Salido, viola and Zizai Ning, cello. Exquisitely well trained, supremely blended, and broadly intelligent in their playing, Zorá Quartet makes you stop and listen very closely to their sound, so refined and aligned along very different combinative qualities of string playing, fresh with sonic ideas in every phrase.
They were winners of the Grand Prize in the 2015 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, the Gold Medal winners in the Senior String Division and Grand Prize winners at the 2014 ENKOR Chamber Music Competition. Clearly they challenge their audiences to listen closely to how they tell a story with their original blend, not just of simulated, period-style playing felicities, but in the apportioning of richness to their blend, and their ability to shift that blend across the spectrum at will. One moment the cello and viola convey deep cherry reds and the next it is cello and second violin in thinly mixed fuchsia tones. The two violins never offset or compete – instead they seem to play utterly without ego, and selflessly interact in a partnership of enviable symbiotic exchange.
The D minor quartet represents Mozart’s only minor-key foray in the genre but it was truly a memorable one, given its continued popularity since the nineteenth century. The Zorá Quartet’s opening strains were arresting, and rich with a sonorous blend that was as darkly-hued as any quartet I have heard play the work in the past 10 years. What a welcome adjustment it was to be baptized into such clean tone, almost of sparing spectral quality in refined eighteenth-century aesthetic, a true understanding of the era and its proto-Romantic ombra. And the lower strings! With mahogany sounds and a blend that was seductive, Mr. Salido and Ms. Ning were somewhat paralyzingly to listen to here and there, particularly in the fourth movement owing to their delicious intonation and sensitive bowing,
The middle movements commanded our attention too, particularly the second movement’s charming A-flat major section and the F minor/C minor section with its sparsely bittersweet throbs, The sighing triad motive was articulated freshly each time, delivered with emotive substance, never overdone nor too sentimental, and was if anything, searching in quality. I appreciated that Zorá never resorted to a perfunctory playing of the movement’s upward swooping central motive.
When it came time for the Minuet movement, the Zorá Quartet gave it powerful angst, darkened with similar shadows along the lines of the D minor piano concerto and other similar threads to be found in the same key throughout Mozart’s repertoire of the period. Their subtle use of dynamics and repeated-note motive was just right, and the Trio was among the best I have heard, live or on recording. Mr. Kowintaweewat’s tone is so refined that he can elucidate anything in Mozart’s music.
The Zorá Quartet showed that they simply don’t have any problems navigating this music, and the Finale’s theme and variations set was a case in point, taken with quiet surety and professional ease. Supple phrasing, never slaves to a rigidity of symmetrical sentence structure, they found a way in every bar to know just when and where to give a little more time or take a little away from a musical line.
The ensemble never hid behind the emotions of the work, never content to simply let the score express its naturally inflected Sturm und Drang, a relatively easy default choice for most quartets performing the Mozart D minor. Interpretively, the Zorá Quartet never took the easy way out. In fact, most often, they were so polished, so breathtakingly well blended, that it was difficult to ignore the dark colours issuing from their instruments both individually and collectively, and how such colours were conspicuously, intellectually well manifested in the martialing of their core sound, to whatever effective ends were required. Thus, they were able to add interpretively more than we customarily hear in this work. Zorá Quartet were the perfect ensemble on Saturday night, and the ideal group to play out one of Mozart’s darkest moments in his small series of autobiographically represented, agitated compositions."
"Zorá Quartet followed up their remarkable Mozart offering last week with one of the two last Haydn string quartets, the G major opus 77. No 1. The maturity of expression and construction in the last quartets of Haydn, regardless of movement type, were on full display here. Zorá Quartet captured the essence of Haydn’s fresh experimentation with the form, seemingly anticipating Beethovenian characteristics throughout every moment. The work requires a stunning variety of expression pushing the limits of the genre and Zorá String Quartet were steadfast to the task.
The ensemble members found their way successfully through the first movement’s emphasis on some of Haydn’s most independent part-writing and a dramatically adventurous development section. Theirs was a fine understanding of every theme and gesture that comprised Haydn’s elaborate polyphonic texture. The first movement often contains some of Haydn’s most challenging virtuoso and ensemble writing which can be difficult to integrate into the textural whole, but Zorá impressed again with their abilities to handle the composer’s sophisticated late style with consistent aplomb.
Zorá filled the acoustically intimate confines of Rolston Hall to the brim with their richness of colourful blend throughout the first two movements. In the second movement ‘Adagio’ they made a unique impact on their audience, elucidating some marvellous moments of fine expression, maturity of control and gorgeous, rounded phrasing. Their second movement was a true highlight, particularly for first violinist Dechopol Kowintaweewat’s pinpoint accuracy throughout all of his cantilena-styled concertante passages, each of them exquisitely tuned and often packaged with fine, discriminating tone.
The ‘Menuetto’ broaches Beethoven territory again, anticipating the latter’s preference for a scherzo, and Haydn duly provides with a syncopated skippy tune of leap-wise dimensions, complete with harmonically rich tags to many of the phrases. The ‘Menuetto’ is so deformed by this point in music history that Haydn has successfully stylized it well beyond anything recognizably like a dance, and the Zorá Quartet felt it just right, seeking a more impulsive and playful, if not, a well-warranted, slightly rash approach. After a perfect execution of the delightful trio, the Zorá String Quartet instilled a more restrained impression of the Menuetto’s da capo section, leaving me with a sense of completeness of such sophisticated writing that is often hard to come by in other live performances of this movement. The fourth movement’s exuberance is well known for its varied and difficult-to-transition textures, counterpoint, repeated zephyr-like motives toward the end, and the famous appoggiaturized downward-moving triad motive to begin. Hitting everything with a balanced expression, given the changing weight of each dyadic composite found in these phrases is not easy, and carrying it off with an élan befitting the old master’s final attempts at the form, so often brightly cheerful, was a treat to hear.
Attempting opus 77 no. 1 in competition is difficult — it is a tricky quartet that has tripped up many ensembles in the past, but judging from what we heard Friday night, Zorá String Quartet’s understanding of the work has them at an encouragingly advantageous point already. What a great performance. I cannot wait to hear the Zorá String Quartet again."
Zorá String Quartet Official Site Photo credit: Matt Dine