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Solem Quartet

Amy Tress, William Newell (violins), Stephen Upshaw (viola), Stephanie Tress (cello)

The Solem Quartet has established itself as one of the most innovative and adventurous quartets of its generation. Recently announced as an awardee of the Jerwood Arts Live Work Fund, one of 33 artists selected from more than 1200 applicants, the Solem Quartet takes its place amongst some of the UK’s brightest artistic voices, with award recipients spread across practices including music, theatre, opera, circus, dance, live art and performance.

They enjoy a busy concert schedule, ranging from international tours to performances at venues such as London’s Wigmore and Queen Elizabeth Halls, Bridgewater Hall in Manchester and Oxford’s Holywell Music Room, and have built a strong following since winning the Royal Over-Seas League Ensemble Competition 2014. Alongside this, their groundbreaking series ‘Solem Lates’ has seen the Quartet rise to prominence as leading exponents of new music, working closely with living composers in pioneering multimedia performances. In one such project they performed the live score to screenings of Yorgos Lanthimos’s 2015 film The Lobster, in collaboration with Picturehouse Cinemas.

In both their regular concerts and ‘Solem Lates’ projects, the Quartet presents daring feats of virtuosity within thoughtfully curated programmes. In ‘Beethoven Bartók Now’, the group’s latest Solem Lates project, the Solem Quartet collaborate with leading young composers of today to perform commissioned new works and present the historic works of Beethoven and Bartók in a fresh light, bringing new life and relevance to these iconic masterpieces; a wealth of digital content and educational activity surrounds each performance.

The Solem Quartet has benefited from inspirational teaching from a number of the world’s greatest chamber musicians including Gábor Takács-Nagy, Thomas Adès, Michal Kaznowski, Gerhard Schulz, Krysia Osostowicz and Richard Ireland. They have attended IMS Prussia Cove and the European Chamber Music Academy and were chosen for the 2014-15 ChamberStudio Mentorship with renowned cellist Christoph Richter. In 2016-17 they were selected as both Tunnell Trust Artists and Park Lane Group Artists.

The Quartet takes great pride in its educational work. From 2015-17 they held the Junior Fellowship in Chamber Music at the Royal Northern College of Music and since 2016 they have been Quartet in Residence at the University of Liverpool. Their immersive concerts and workshops have taken them to mainstream and special needs schools through Live Music Now and they have performed or given seminars at Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool and Cardiff Universities. They are also Ensemble in Residence at Aberystwyth MusicFest.

Individual Biographies

Amy Tress (violin)

Violinist Amy Tress enjoys a busy career as a soloist, chamber musician and teacher. Winner of numerous awards including Oxford University’s Gibbs Prize for the highest 1st class Music degree and the Royal College of Music Violin Competition & Unaccompanied Bach Prize, Amy has regularly appeared at major concert venues across the UK such as the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Wigmore Hall.

Amy’s concerto performances with orchestra have included Brahms, Shostakovich, Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Korngold, Schnittke Concerto Grosso and the Bach Double, as well as Ravel’s Tzigane, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherezade and Sibelius’s Humoresques.

Having studied Music at Christ Church, Oxford, Amy won a scholarship for a Master’s and Artist Diploma at the Royal College of Music, with Professor Maciej Rakowski. Subsequently she studied with Professor Pavel Vernikov at the Scuola di Musica di Fiesole, Italy. Amy has participated in many solo and chamber music festivals, including IMS Prussia Cove, Wye Valley Chamber Music, Keshet Eilon in Israel, Marryat Chamber Music Festival, Mendelssohn-on-Mull Festival and Academie Internationale de Maurice Ravel. She teaches chamber music at the Royal College of Music Junior Department and violin at Eton College, Windsor. Since August 2014 Amy has directed her own course, La Mariette Junior Masterclasses in France.

William Newell (violin)

William Newell, violinist, enjoys a varied performance career. In 2017, he completed his Master’s degree at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, graduating with Distinction, and received the Sheriff’s Prize for Music. He studied at the Guildhall School with world-renowned chamber musicians Krysia Osostowicz and Alexander Janiczek.

William has performed across the UK and Europe with orchestras and ensembles including The Hallé, Manchester Camerata, Manchester Collective, Multi-Story Orchestra, 12 ensemble and Parallax Orchestra; performed under conductors including Sir Simon Rattle, Valery Ghergiev and John Adams; and played in masterclasses with András Keller, the Takacs Quartet and Levon Chilligirian.

Originally from Romford in Essex, William enjoys performing a wide range of music. He is a member of the Mead Men, a sea shanty group, and has performed live or recorded with artists including Eminem, Clean Bandit, Deacon Blue, Bring Me The Horizon, Alter Bridge and Goldsmoke. His violin and viola playing was featured on the Channel 4 series Flowers (2016, 2018), and the BBC One series Ghosts (2019).

Stephen Upshaw (viola)

Since making his concerto debut at the age of seventeen, American violist Stephen Upshaw has won several competitions and played in festivals around the world including the BBC Proms, Cheltenham, IMS Prussia Cove, Lucerne, Aix-en-Provence, Wien Modern and Salzburg Chamber Music Festival. Much in demand as a chamber musician, he has shared the stage with artists such as Tai Murray, Gary Hoffman, Chi-Chi Nwanoku, Jennifer Stumm and Garth Knox. Recent recital and chamber music engagements have taken him to Boston’s Jordan Hall, London’s Barbican and Wigmore Halls, Tokyo Opera City, Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall and Vienna’s Konzerthaus.

A noted interpreter of contemporary music, Stephen is also a member of London’s Riot Ensemble whose recent disc ‘Speak Be Silent’ was selected as one of New Yorker Magazine’s ‘Best Recordings of 2019’. He has also worked closely with many of today’s leading composers, including John Adams, Julian Anderson, George Benjamin and Helmut Lachenmann. Expanding the repertoire of the viola through the commissioning of new music has always been a feature of Stephen’s work. He has taken part in over 300 world premieres including chamber music of Georg Haas and Sally Beamish (alongside the composer) and solo works of Mark Simpson, Michael Finnissy and Errollyn Wallen.

A native of Atlanta, Stephen studied with Dr Marilyn Seelman before earning a BMus (Hons) from the New England Conservatory in Boston under the tutelage of Carol Rodland and Martha Strongin-Katz. Stephen completed his Postgraduate studies in the class of David Takeno at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where he was elected a Junior Fellow and won a Guildhall Scholarship. Chamber Music mentors include Paul Katz, Ferenc Rados, Alasdair Tait and members of the Takacs, Belcea, Endellion, and Arditti Quartets.

In 2016 Stephen was awarded a prestigious soloist Fellowship from Trinity Laban College of Music and Dance. Stephen has also toured regularly to the USA, Europe and Asia with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields and its music director, Joshua Bell.

Stephanie Tress (cello)

Cellist Stephanie Tress graduated from the Joint Course at the University of Manchester and the Royal Northern College of Music in 2014 with First Class degrees from both institutions. She received a number of prizes and notably won the Sir John Barbirolli Cello Competition (2013). Prior to that she studied at the Hochschüle für Kunste in Bremen, Germany, with Alexander Baillie and at the RCM Junior Department with Michal Kaznowski.

As a soloist she has performed the Elgar, Dvorak and Saint-Saens concertos several times with orchestras around the UK, including at the Battle Proms to an audience of 10,000 people. She has also played Martijn Padding’s concerto “Last Words” with the New Music ensemble Vaganza.

Steph is the cellist of the contemporary music group House of Bedlam, which performs experimental music in eclectic venues and gives a biennial course on the Britten Pears Young Artist Programme: Composition, Alternative Performance and Performance Art. She has been featured on BBC Radio 3’s The New Music Show a number of times with House of Bedlam, as well as more recently with a live cello trio performance from Café Oto and in a specially commissioned duet with the soprano Juliet Fraser.

Steph is principal cellist with Sinfonia Cymru, with whom upcoming projects include all of Beethoven’s Piano Concertos (for BBC broadcast), and a concert of contemporary music she curated herself, including Steve Reich’s Cello Counterpoint and Laurence Crane’s Raimondas Rumsas, for cello and BACH bogen (curved bow).

Last updated: 19 Mar 2021

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