Jonathan Crow and Andrew Wan, violins; Eric Nowlin, viola; Brian Manker, cello
Forty-five years ago a new Canadian string quartet was formed at the Jeunesses-Musicales du Canada summer camp at Parc National du Mont-Orford (today the Orford Arts Centre). The Orford String Quartet gave its first public concert on August 11, 1965. Through its many recordings and tours both at home and abroad, the Orford String Quartet became one of Canada's best-known and most illustrious musical ensembles. After 26 years and more than 2000 concerts on six continents, the Quartet disbanded, giving its last concert on July 28, 1991. In July 2009 the New Orford String Quartet arose from the fame and tradition of its glorious predecessor, giving its first concert for a sold-out audience at the Orford Arts Centre. In the short time since its creation the New Orford Quartet has seen astonishing success, giving annual concerts at the Orford Arts Centre for national CBC broadcast and receiving unanimous critical acclaim, including two Opus Awards for Concert of the Year. Reviews of the New Orford String Quartet debut concert in the Montreal Gazette applauded a concert performance that was "sweet, balanced and technically unassailable less than a week after their members met for the first time... Lustily applauded in the Orford Arts Centre, the concert was true to the Orford name in its beauty and refinement. Indeed, there was no trace of roughness anywhere". Le Devoir described the musical result as "stupefying". Recent performances in Montreal and Quebec were met with immediate invitations for return engagements.
Hailed for their "ravishingly beautiful tone" as well as their "extraordinary technical skills and musicianship", the members of the New Orford String Quartet are all principal players in the Montreal and Toronto Symphony Orchestras. In 2009, these like-minded musicians came together with a plan to revolutionize the concept of string quartet playing in Canada, bringing together four stars of the classical music field for a limited touring schedule on a project-by-project basis inspired by the success of modern chamber orchestras such as the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and Mahler Chamber Orchestra. Rather than committing to a year-round schedule, the members of the quartet meet for residencies in various centres for short periods of time, providing a fresh perspective on interpretations of standard string quartet repertoire. The New Orford String Quartet is also dedicated to promoting Canadian works, both new commissions and neglected repertoire from the previous century. Each New Orford String Quartet project has included performances of a major Canadian string quartet from the 20th century or a premiere of a newly composed work, and programs have included repertoire from a period that spans over 225 years, from Haydn and Beethoven to Sir Ernest MacMillan and Denis Gougeon.
In 2011 the New Orford String Quartet released its debut album of the final quartets of Schubert and Beethoven on Bridge Records to international acclaim. Hailed as one of the top CDs of 2011 by La Presse and CBC In Concert and nominated for a JUNO Award in 2012, critics have described the recording as a "performance of true greatness and compelling intensity... stunning!" (Audio Video Club of Atlanta), "flawless... a match made in heaven" (Classical Music Sentinel), "a performance of rare intensity" (Audiophile Audition) and "nothing short of electrifying... listen and weep." (The Toronto Star).