University of the Free State UFS Odeion String Quartet
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The Odeion String Quartet was established at the University of the Free State (UFS) in 1991 as a permanent full-time, resident string quartet. At present it is the only resident string quartet at a South African university. The Odeion String Quartet is a flagship of the UFS and symbolises the university’s commitment to the arts. It plays an important strategic role in the development of symphony orchestra music and in classical music training in the Free State.
For the first eight years of its existence, the quartet comprised of four players: Derek Ochse, Abrie de Wet, John Wille, and Michael Haller. Apart from countrywide concerts in all major centres, the quartet took part in music festivals in Norway, Zimbabwe, and Botswana, as well as all the major arts festivals in South Africa. They developed an extensive repertoire and performed with artists of international acclaim, including the Norwegian Vertavo String Quartet. They also produced several CDs.
The quartet configuration changed when the first leader, Derek Ochse, retired at the end of 1999. Juan Muñoz joined the quartet as leader and started several innovative projects. After his resignation in 2002, Jürgen Schwietering was appointed leader in 2004. His resignation in 2007 as well as that of Abrie de Wet, followed by the retirement of both John Wille and Michael Haller shortly afterwards, presented an opportunity to reconstitute the quartet afresh. Denise Sutton (leader) together with Sharon de Kock, Jeanne-Louise Moolman, and Anmari van der Westhuizen were appointed in 2008.
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The all-female quartet has performed to critical acclaim in Bloemfontein, Bulawayo, Cape Town, George, Grahamstown, Harare, Johannesburg, Knysna, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth, and Stellenbosch. Artists with whom they have appeared include Albie van Schalkwyk, Ben Schoeman, Catherine Foxcroft, Eddy van Oosthuyse, Farida Bacharova, James Grace, Leon Bosch, Leslie Howard, Liesl Stoltz, Marian Lewin, and Zanta Hofmeyr. During 2011, the quartet recorded Hendrik Hofmeyr’s string quartets on CD, which was released in 2013.
Samson Diamond joined as leader of the Odeion String Quartet in 2013. During 2013 the quartet performed with great success at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival and International Arts Festival (HIFA, Harare, Zimbabwe) and toured Europe with performances with Prof Eddy Van Oosthuyse (clarinet) and Danre Strydom (clarinet) in Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland to critical acclaim.
During 2014 the Odeion String Quartet performed at US Woordfees, KKNK, Grahamstown National Arts Festival and the Vrystaat Kunstefees. The Odeion String quartet was awarded a Kanna prize for the Best Classical Production during KKNK 2014; the Vrystaat Kunstefees award for Best Debut Artist, and the UFS Alumni Ambassador’s prize. The release of their CD “Bits and Pieces” also took place during 2014 and consists of shorter works, as well as Karl Jenkins’ String Quartet no.2. The quartet was invited to take part in Birmingham’s Chamber Music Festival during June 2015 and was nominated for a 2015 kykNet Fiësta Award for Best Achievement in Classical Music.
The members of the quartet play an important role as teachers at the Odeion School of Music, attracting students from all over the country. They also lead the string sections of the Free State Symphony Orchestra (FSSO), coach the string sections of the Free State Youth Orchestra (FSYO), train chamber music ensembles, Odeion Sinfonia, and assist with the Mangaung Strings Project. The quartet is therefore an essential part of UFS collaboration with the FSSO, the FSYO, the Free State Musicon, the Free State Provincial Department of Arts and Culture, and Pacofs (Performing Arts Centre of the Free State).
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