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October 12 , 2003

Zehetmair Quartet wins Gramophone “Record of the Year” Award 2003

The Zehetmair Quartet’s ECM New Series recording of Robert Schumann’s String Quartets 1 & 3 has won Gramophone Magazine’s coveted ‘Record of the Year’ prize. The prize – one of the most highly-regarded awards in classical music- was presented to violinist Thomas Zehetmair and producer Manfred Eicher by former British deputy Prime Minister Lord Heseltine at a special ceremony at the Barbican in London on October 12th.
    “This is one of those discs that just grabs you the minute you put it into the player,” Gramophone editor James Jolly enthused. “It has an immediacy, passion and excitement that really sets it apart from the average chamber-music recording. It is impossible to be unmoved by it.’
    Thomas Zehetmair said: ”My fellow musicians and I are deeply honoured to have won Gramophone’s ‘Record of the Year’. And we are especially delighted to have done so with a recording of such intimate and subtle music as these Schumann Quartets.”
    This important win by the Zehetmair Quartet also marks ECM’s debut in the Gramophone Awards.
    The Quartet’s Schumann disc has proven to be an almost universally loved album. The disc was recently announced as a winner of the Diapason d’or de l’année, the prestigious award given by French music magazine Diapason for the year’s best classical recordings. Other accolades have included Choc du mois in Le monde de la musique; CD des Monats, Stereo; Selection, Nouvel Observateur; BBC Music Magazine Review Editors Choice; CD of the Week on BBC Radio 3; HiFi News & Record Review CD of the Month – the list goes on ...
    The Zehetmair Quartet’s ECM New Series debut album, with recordings of Bartók’s Quartet No 4 and Hartmann’s Quartet No 1, also netted rave reviews worldwide and collected awards including the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik (Bestenliste 3/2001). A second volume of Hartmann/ Bartók will be released in 2004.
    The first public performances by the Zehetmair Quartet were in 1998. From the outset the musicians made a powerful impact on audiences with the ‘improvisational’ freshness of their playing, a sense of spontaneity often achieved by committing the music to heart. This unusual policy has contributed to their reputation as one of the most exciting string quartets in the world today. The quartet is also unusual in that each of its members maintains a thriving solo career.
    Thomas Zehetmair’s first ECM recordings date back to 1984 and performances of Shostakovich from the Lockenhaus Festival. He has given the world premieres of several important works, including Heinz Holliger’s Violin Concerto – which he has also recorded for future release on ECM New Series. In recent years the Austrian violinist Zehetmair has also taken up the baton, being appointed music director of the Northern Sinfonia in Newcastle last year. Under his direction the Camerata Bern recorded Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht, Bartók’s Divertimento and the Transylvanian Dances of Sándor Veress for ECM. Zehetmair and fellow quartet member Ruth Killius also teamed up with oboist Heinz Holliger and cellist Thomas Demenga this spring for “Lauds and Lamentations”, the widely-acclaimed double album of works by Elliott Carter and Isang Yun.