UK quartet wins at Banff

UK quartet wins at Banff


norman lebrecht

September 02, 2019

The first prize at the Banff International String Quartet Competition was shared last night between the Marmen Quartet of the UK – Johannes Marmen, Bryony Gibson-Cornish (violists), Steffan Morris (cellist) and Ricky Gore (violin) – and the Canadian/US Viano String Quartet – Lucy Wang, Hao Zhou (violins), Aiden Kane (viola) and Tate Zawadiuk (cello).

Each quartet wins C$16,500 and a two year salaried residency at Southern Methodist University in Dallas Texas, worth US$160,000.

The Marmens (pictured) also won the Haydn prize.

The second-placed Callisto Quartet (US) went home with C$12,000 cash prize and creative residency at Banff.

The Marmens had previously won at Bordeaux.

The Viano Quartet, their CV says, ‘works primarily with Martin Beaver, as well as other members of the Colburn School faculty.’ Mr Beaver was one of the Banff judges. We hear there was much conversation at the competition about this coincidence.

Mr Beaver, it appears, was able to recuse himself from judging his protégés (see Comment below).


  • Jormaple says:

    The Viano Quartet was outstanding throughout the competition. They always were strong candidates to win.

  • Fiddlist says:

    If he’s on the jury, he didn’t recuse himself… nice viola joke about the Marmens having two brats and one fiddle though!

  • V.Lind says:

    Hmm. Some of the names there make me think there may be some players who speak languages other than (and in addition to) English…

    • Castlegate says:

      What ? Viano and Marmens both come from ENGLISH SPEAKING countries. Stop your xenophobic and racist BS. That should not be welcome here, ever.

  • Jeff says:

    The Callisto Quartet has been mentored extensively by Phil Setzer.
    The Marmen Quartet is in residence at the same school where Ursula Smith teaches and coaches chamber music, and has even performed with her. With groups as fantastic as these, it’s almost impossible for none of the members to have any connection whatsoever to at least one person on the jury. This doesn’t mean anyone is less deserving of their prize! Each group played absolutely brilliantly and deserves the praise and admiration they will receive!

  • Barry Shiffman says:

    Dear Norman,

    Thank you for covering the Banff International String Quartet Competition. It was a sensational week of music making performed before capacity audiences. Music lovers filled the mountain campus for both the many recitals of the competition and the many other events we produced. These events included master classes, community enagament concerts by quartets from our young artists program, special concerts for children with autism and many other offerings.
    Your article raised the issue that juror Martim Beaver has an existing relationship with the Viano Quartet. I would like to clarify that juror Martin Beaver had informed us of the fact that he was a coach of the Viano Quartet before the start of the competition. Such disclosure is required by the regulations of the competition and is then shared with the official mathematician of the competition. As a result of this declared relationship, Mr. Beaver did not cast a vote for any of Viano performances. We try to avoid these conflicts but they do arise and our voting system has a process to maintain the integrity of the competition when these situations arise. We will post the jury voting procedures on our website tomorrow after the Labour Day holiday, so that there is better understanding and of the jury process.
    Barry Shiffman Director
    Banff International String Quartet Competition.

  • Barry Shiffman says:

    HI Norman,
    As promised, below is the web address to the voting procedures for the competition. As mentioned there is a clause that requires jury disclosure of any conflict and this was indeed respected by the jury.

    Kind regards

    Barry Shiffman
    Director, The Banff International String Quartet Competition.

  • Steve says:

    The Marmen and Viano quartets played fabulously. It was clear from the audience reactions after the final Beethoven performances by both quartets that the audience believed both quartets deserved to win — and the jurors came to the same conclusion. Hopefully the jury voting procedures that are posted will clarify that appropriate steps were taken during the judging process to ensure that conflicts were handled appropriately.