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Orava Quartet Shaking Up Australia’s Classical Scene

Orava Quartet. Image Credit: Facebook
Graham Strahle
| January 15, 2018

The four smart-looking Brisbane-based lads who make up the Orava Quartet have enjoyed a remarkable string of successes over recent years, and now have the remarkable distinction of releasing their debut album on the prestigious Deutsche Grammophon label. It comes even before many audiences may be familiar with the group.

Orava first rose to notoriety in 2013 when they won the Musica Viva Tony Berg Award for the most outstanding Australian ensemble at the Asia Pacific Chamber Music Competition in Melbourne. At this time they were graduate Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Colorado, working closely with the Takács Quartet. While in the US during 2012-14, they were selected to be part of the Juilliard String Quartet Seminar in New York.

On returning to Australia, they became Camerata’s quartet-in-residence in Brisbane, and have been engaged heavily in concerts and festivals around the country. Most recently, ABC FM listeners would have heard their scintillating performance of Shostakovich’s String Quartet no 8 at Musica Viva’s Huntington Estate Music Festival last November. This work features on their album along with quartets by Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov.

Universal Music Australia, whose portfolio includes Deutsche Grammophon, signed on Orava Quartet after its head of classical and jazz, Cyrus Meher-Homji, heard them at the 2015 Huntington Festival.

“I was gobsmacked by their clarity and dedication to the work,” he said in The Courier Mail. “I knew there and then we had to record an album with them.”

The group gains its name from Orawa for string orchestra (1988) by Polish composer Wojciech Kilar, a nod to the homeland of two of the players. First violinist Daniel Kowalik and cellist Karol Kowalik are brothers in a highly musical Polish émigré family in Sydney that began playing quartets with their father George and elder sister Sylwia in 2007. Daniel and Karol gained their degrees at Sydney Conservatorium, and fellow graduate Thomas Chawner subsequently took over as violist. Townsville-born David Dalseno stepped in as second violinist in 2011 following his studies at the Queensland Conservatorium.

Congratulations to the Waistcoat Bandits, as they are affectionately known. They look set to shake up Australia’s classical scene even further. Their striking success was always bound to attract the ‘boy band’ tag, but Chawner is not fazed by that. “We’d be happy with that if we got millions of screaming fans. We’re working on that,” he said in The Herald Sun.

Orava Quartet’s Deutsche Grammophon recording comes out on 9 February. To mark the event they perform live at the inaugural Music By The Springs chamber music festival in Daylesford, Victoria, on 9-11 February. Hear them also at the Utzon Room, Sydney Opera House on 18 February, the State Library of Queensland on February 24, Melbourne Recital Centre on March 13, and the Canberra International Music Festival on April 27. Details here.

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