20 years ago, there were only a few string quartets and we were like family

20 years ago, there were only a few string quartets and we were like family


norman lebrecht

September 30, 2016

The violinist Grzegorz Kotow announced today that he is leaving the Szymanowski Quartet, which he co-founded two decades ago. In parting, he has some trenchant thoughts on how the quartet world has changed. 

Here’s Grzegorz’s statement:



I have decided to leave my beloved Szymanowski Quartet, of which I was co-founder and have been a member for over 20 years.

I thought there was no better way to say good-bye than to do it with the Schubert Quintet with Misha Maisky in Wroclaw, close to the place where I was born. So Schubert’s amazing final c, which always sounds like destiny to me…was my last note.

I always thought there was no better way to spend life than playing pieces like the Cavatina, but after all these successful years of living with and for the quartet, I have realized that it is time for something new in my life.They were amazing, wonderful years – half my life. During that time I was given the opportunity to perform regularly at the best concert venues around the world. But even more important – and what I am most thankful for – is that, because of the quartet, I had the opportunity to meet so many exceptional artists and audience members. Many have become friends for life.Thank you so much, my dearest quartet colleagues – Agata, Volodia,Marcin, and former members Andrej and Marek – for all these amazing adventures and for sharing the love and madness of quartet playing.

When we started, the world of the string quartet was very different from what it is today... There were only a few of us and we were all like a big quartet family. It was the world of the Amadeus, Italiano, Guarneri and Alban Berg quartets, all of whom we were lucky enough to meet and work with. When the Szymanowski Quartet started out, none of us was thinking about a professional career…we just played for 10 hours a day – crazy, hungry and curious about the new world that we were discovering. Today everything is much faster, with websites, Facebook and self-made recordings… It just happened somehow, and we still don’t really know how, but we were lucky enough to be successful during these 20 years. For me they were such beautiful, amazing years, especially the crazy ones at the beginning.

I’m sure the Szymanowski Quartet will continue its successful career without me and with a fantastic new member.
I feel that it’s time for me to move on…I will not disappear completely, but I will be shifting to the other side of the stage. In the past few years, my wife, Shannen, has built up a very successful artist and touring management agency, which I have become more and more a part of, and which I will now be joining officially as a partner.

I have a feeling that in this way I can serve the music world, using my experience as an artist. For many years I have gotten to know great agents and promoters, some of whom have become very close friends. I also taught at the Musikhochschule Hannover for 15 years. I had a chance to work as a promoter as well, which I will continue . I will be artistic director of a new festival in Austria and artistic advisor to a chamber orchestra in Asia. And …I will finally have more time for my family, since I promised my son that I will be at home for his next birthday, which I have not managed for the last few years.Thank you all again for the great support and friendship I got as a member of the Szymanowski Quartet. I’m looking forward to meeting you soon.
Best wishes Grzegorz


  • Michael Klotz says:

    Beautifully written. Bravo, Grzegorz, on an amazing tenure with the wonderful Szymanowski quartet. I still remember when you guys played Brahms
    c minor quartet I need Carnegie Hall at the Isaac Stern chamber seminar. The slow movement was the most gorgeous performance of that piece I ever heard!

  • Linda Blandford says:

    Excuse me – a member for over 20 years? Is that all? how about the Juilliard Quartet and the wonderful Robert Mann? how about La Salle Quartet and the passionate Walter Levin? I’m sure others could go on …

  • Prof. Hatto Beyerle says:

    The best answer is from Eric: “What is the point of your comment?”

    Quartet family? Nonsens! When the Szymanowski started, Italiano and Amadeo have long stopped playing! The Guarneri never knew them, the Alban Berg maybe, because of me. I worked with your quartet for many years, prepared all the competitions with you – but you don’t even mention my name. Instead this romantic story about the “string quartet family”. And the “few of us (quartets)” – stupid! Did you forget the Borodin, Ysaye, Cherubini, Lindsay, Chilingirian, Hagen, Tokyo, Emerson, Juillard, Vermeer, Takács and other quartets? When you had your start they were all already famous!

    Erics is the best comment: What is the point of your comment?

    A very interesting interview!

    • Tom says:

      Awfull comments,full of grudge and sourness… I hope that teachers I have had in my life will never say publically something like this about us.. Disgusting commentaries.