Are string quartets running out of names?

Are string quartets running out of names?


norman lebrecht

November 14, 2017

The Wigmore Hall has just published a shortlist for next year’s  International String Quartet Competition.

Just look at those names below. The Tchalik Quartet? Viano? Vera?

Are those indelible names?

Somebody needs to teach new quartets about branding.


Callisto Quartet          USA

Eliot Quartett              Germany

Esmé Quartet              Germany

Gildas Quartet             UK          

Goldmund Quartett    Germany

Idomeneo Quartet      UK/Switzerland/Spain

Marmen Quartet        UK          

Quartet Amabile         Japan

Quatuor Tchalik          France   

Solem Quartet            UK          

Vera Quartet               USA        

Viano Quartet             USA



  • Robert Roy says:

    I remember reading about the pianist Gerald Moore being approached by an elderly lady and saying ‘Mr. Moore, you won’t remember me but, many years ago, you and I gave a recital together’. Moore replied, ‘Dear lady, to be honest, I don’t remember BUT had you been very bad I would surely have remembered you’.

    The lady left, satisfied with this response. However, Moore wrote …’but, in my head I was thinking had you been exceptional, I would also have remembered you!’

    The name doesn’t matter. It’s the music making that’s the important thing.

      • Sue says:

        Did anybody ever read Moore’s autobiography “Am I Too Loud?”? I never got around to it.

        • Steven Holloway says:

          I have. That book and the later Am I Too Loud: Memoirs of an Accompanist are both memoirs rather than autobiographical. Very enjoyable indeed. There is much to enjoy for anyone who is an admirer of the great pianist Solomon, who was Moore’s lifelong friend. Moore also wrote books on his art. I have his Schubert Song Cycles: With Thoughts on Performance. That one is revelatory.

  • Steven Holloway says:

    The one stand-out for me is the Eliot Quartet, named for TSE’s Four Quartets. Off-the-cuff, I can think of three reasons why that resonates, one of them of some profundity.

    One the other end of this gamut, I’m at a loss to know what the ‘Tchaik’ people were thinking, if they in fact were. Horrible.

    • Ian Paton says:

      In the font used, the ‘l’ of Tchalik looks like a second, easily overlooked ‘i’.

      • Steven Holloway says:

        Thank you. As NL has it as ‘Tchaik’ at present, I made the cardinal error of going with that. I should have known better and checked the list at bottom.

  • REGERFAN says:

    it’s not tchaik, it’s tchalik, and they are brothers and sisters from the Tchalik family.

  • Robert King says:

    Has anyone yet used “The Winning Quartet”?
    At least they could say they were, even if they weren’t.

    • Michael Turner says:

      Hello Robert,
      Perhaps you should ask Fiona Winning, ex-Principal Viola of the RPO and RLPO. But then again she is currently the violist of the Edinburgh Quartet, so unless they want to change their name, maybe not!

      • Robert King says:

        Wonderful: she’s surely got the job. Can SD readers maybe further assist in the creation of a putative quartet or other ensemble, to be brought together [on paper] solely for the joy of combining suitable names?

        For instance, many years ago there was an ad hoc baroque group called “The Catherine Wheel” which gave a fine charity concert, with everyone performing having their first name based on Katherine/Catherine or its many derivatives. The performance received a typically poetic review by Hilary Finch in The Times, if I remember rightly.

  • Mike Schachter says:

    I like Amabile.

  • boringfileclerk says:

    The problem is that there are too many quartets. Most of which are forgettable whatever their name. Standards have declined, not creative naming.

  • Ruben Greenberg says:

    How about “the Barber-Shop Quartet”, in honour of the composer, Samuel Barber?

  • Dan P. says:

    There are two quartets in NYC with curious names – whose origins are a mystery to me. First there is the JACK Quartet (yes, all caps), but my favorite is the quartet simply called “Ethel.” I’m not sure if this a reference to Lucy Ricardo’s best friend or someone else – or simply random. I think this trend is to separate the old fuddy-duddy tails-wearing older mean of European background playing Beethoven Op. 130. from the more hip, black turtleneck clad post adolescents looking both malnourished and with the look of studied indifference for their press releases. Just my guess.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    How about serial numbers?

    The names I think are most dubious are the ones taking the name of a long gone, famous composer.

    The ones I think work best are the place-name monikers.

  • Raymond says:

    JACK= John Ari Christopher Kevin

  • Cyril Blair says:

    Some of these are pretty good. At any rate, any of them is preferable to something awful like “The Piano Guys.”

  • Terry says:

    These musicians should learn about product placement from Hollywood.

    Then we could enjoy the Pepsi Quartet, the Google Trio, the Microsoft Chamber Orchestra etc.

    The Viagra Duo perhaps?

  • Kate says:

    It’s Tchalik not Tchaik.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      And what is that?

      • Robert King says:

        Gabriel Tchalik and Louise Tchalik, violins
        Sarah Tchalik, viola
        Marc Tchalik, cello

        From their website:
        “The Tchalik Quartet is made up of brothers and sisters [who were] steeped in music from the cradle in a family where music holds an important place […] The Quartet plays also Quintet concerts with Dania Tchalik, who then joins his brothers and sisters.

        Can anyone think of a better collective noun for a Tchalik besides “a quartet of Tchaliks”?

  • Jon Teske says:

    This is a “What to name the Baby?” dilemma. I’m the violist in a volunteer, non-pro quartet, but we do perform in public, albeit at community events, my church (they have to let us play, I’m a fairly major contributor), and the local senior home circuit. Seniors are nice, don’t throw rotten fruit. When we first confronted the naming issue, our first violinist, a scientist by trade, said that a previous quartet she was in while doing a post-doc was named for the street on which they rehearsed. My quartet rehearses at my house. I live on Gelding Lane. “The Gelding Quartet?” I don’t think so. We have not settled on any name as yet, but have taken to calling ourselves (in jest) the “Emanon” Quartet. “No Name” backwards. LOL

  • Dave T says:

    I guess The Wigmore was able to rebuff Quartet Offensive.

  • peter says:

    I’m just waiting for the Dover quartet to play there again. There’s a straightforward name to go with amazing musicians and although in actual fact nothing to do with white cliffs, it is evocative nonetheless.