Praised for their “immaculate precision and spirit” (The Strad) and “cultured tone” (Arts Desk), the Solem Quartet has established itself as one of the most innovative and adventurous quartets of its generation. A 2020 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.
Since winning the Royal Over-Seas League Ensemble Competition 2014, the Solem Quartet has built a strong following. They enjoy a busy concert schedule, ranging from international tours in Asia and Europe to performances at venues such as London’s Wigmore and Queen Elizabeth Halls, Bridgewater Hall in Manchester and Oxford’s Holywell Music Room.
Passionate about collaboration, the Quartet has worked with artists from across genres including filmmaker Jessie Rodger, cellist/singer/composer Ayanna Witter-Johnson, and clarinettist/composer Mark Simpson, with whom they appeared at the Aldeburgh Festival and live on BBC Radio 3. They have also worked closely with many of today’s leading composers, including Anna Meredith, Colin Matthews and Thomas Adès, and in 2021 gave the UK premiere of Jonny Greenwood’s Quartet Suite from “There Will be Blood” at the V&A Museum.
L to R:
William Newell, Amy Tress, Stephen Upshaw, Stephanie Tress
The success of their ground-breaking ‘Solem Lates’ concept, created in 2019 with the aim of presenting classical music in a fresh way and reaching broader audiences, has underlined the Quartet’s position as leading exponents of new music. Between 2020 and 2023, the Quartet’s ‘Beethoven Bartók Now’ series featured six major commissions from composers Aaron Parker, Jasmine Morris, David John Roche, Ayanna Witter-Johnson, Edmund Finnis and Bushra El-Turk, alongside the complete Bartók Quartets and complete late Beethoven Quartets, bringing new life and relevance to these iconic masterpieces. ‘Beethoven Bartók Now’ also featured a wealth of digital content and educational activity including ‘Writing for Quartet’ workshops for composers of all backgrounds, generously supported by the Royal Philharmonic Society.
Past ‘Solem Lates’ projects have included bringing music for quartet + electronics to nightclubs around the UK, performing Bartók’s 3rd Quartet from memory, and collaborating with Picturehouse Cinemas to bring Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Lobster” to life through live score performances alongside the iconic film.
‘The Four Quarters’, the Solem Quartet’s debut album, was released to critical acclaim in September 2021. Using Thomas Adès’ The Four Quarters as a framework – and featuring several arrangements by the ensemble – this CD explores composers’ depictions of night and day and all the moments in between; from the melodious dawn chorus of Cassandra Miller’s Warblework, via Bartók’s earthly and touching portrayal of An Evening in the Village, to Kate Bush’s ethereal And Dream Of Sheep. The Quartet recently signed a three-disc deal with Delphian Records and will be releasing their next recording “Painted Light” in Autumn 2023.
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, where they were invited to perform in the gala opening concert of the Tung Auditorium, flagship concert hall of the University’s new Yoko Ono Lennon Centre. 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.
Amy Tress is a violinist, chamber musician and recording artist whose work encompasses a wide variety of classical and contemporary music. A ‘brilliantly adaptable’ player (The Strad), she has been described as performing ‘poetically’ (The Arts Desk) and with ‘demonstrative charm’ (The Scotsman).
Alongside her role as first violinist of the Solem Quartet, she records frequently for film and TV, from major franchises like Marvel Studios and “The Matrix” to soundtracks by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, with whom she has also appeared in recital.
She has collaborated with leading living composers such as Thomas Adès, Anna Meredith and Edmund Finnis, and appeared as soloist with orchestras such as the National Symphony Orchestra (Ireland). Her live and recorded solo and chamber music performances are broadcast regularly on BBC Radio 3.
Amy studied Music at Christ Church, Oxford, where she won the Gibbs Prize for the highest First Class Music degree, and subsequently the Royal College of Music. She teaches at the Royal College of Music Junior Department and since 2014 has directed La Mariette Junior Masterclasses in France.
William Newell enjoys a wide-ranging career as chamber musician, orchestral principal and arranger.
Aside from his work with the Quartet, William is Principal Second Violin with Manchester Camerata, where he regularly collaborates with the orchestra’s Music Director, Gábor Takács-Nagy, and some of the world’s leading soloists. Elsewhere, William has performed with many of the UK’s leading chamber orchestras including Manchester Collective, London Mozart Players, Royal Northern Sinfonia and 12 Ensemble.
The Solem Quartet’s debut disc, The Four Quarters (Orchid Classics), features several of William’s own arrangements, described as ‘expressive and stylish’, and from 2023 the Solems will be performing a set of Kate Bush songs which he has created to be performed with Alice Zawadzki. His arrangements have been performed by the London Mozart Players and St Martin-in-the-Fields Players and broadcast on BBC Radio 3.
Demonstrating his dynamic versatility and broad tastes, William is a member of the Mead Men (a sea shanty group); has played for Nonclassical and the Vortex Jazz Club; and has performed live with artists including Eminem, Laura Marling, Deacon Blue, Bring Me The Horizon and Goldsmoke. His solo violin and viola playing was featured on the Channel 4 series “Flowers”, and the BBC series “Ghosts and Guilt”.
Originally from Romford, North East London, William began his musical education with Havering Music School followed by private lessons with Susan Sheppard. He attended the Guildhall School where he studied with renowned chamber musicians Krysia Osostowicz and Alexander Janiczek.
American violist Stephen Upshaw regularly appears in festivals around the world including the BBC Proms, Cheltenham, Lucerne, Brighton, Huddersfield, Aix-en-Provence, Wien Modern, Donaueschingen and the Salzburg Chamber Music Festival.
Much in demand as a chamber musician, he has shared the stage with artists such as Tai Murray, Jennifer Stumm, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Philippe Graffin, Chi-chi Nwanoku 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, winners of the Ernst von Siemens Foundation Ensemble Prize, whose recent disc ‘Speak Be Silent’ was selected as one of New Yorker Magazine’s ‘Best Recordings of 2019’. He has worked closely with many of today’s leading composers, including John Adams, Thomas Adès, 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.
Recent recital appearances include the Time of Music (Finland), Brighton and Little Missenden Festivals, Kettle’s Yard, King’s Place and the National Gallery.
In 2022 Stephen became professor of viola at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, and at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama Junior Department. He has published pedagogical articles in Strad Magazine and is invited to give masterclasses across the UK, US and Europe.
Stephanie Tress, a founding member of the Solem Quartet, is a leading chamber musician and champion of contemporary music. Steph is also a member of the experimental group House of Bedlam, and has performed with them at Kettle’s Yard and various festivals around the UK, including biannual Britten Pears Young Artist courses at Aldeburgh.
She often joins other chamber ensembles as a guest, such as the Jess Gillam Ensemble, Manchester Collective, SE26 Ensemble, United Strings of Europe, 12 Ensemble, London Chamber Orchestra and London Contemporary Orchestra.
A particular recent highlight was a performance of Michael Gordon’s ‘Industry’ for solo cello and live electronics at Hidden Notes Festival with Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood. Steph also performed this work at London’s Purcell Room, and separately for a BBC Radio 3 live broadcast.
Steph frequently performs with BBC Symphony Orchestra, was formerly Principal Cello of Sinfonia Cymru, and is currently a regular Guest Principal with Manchester Camerata. Steph also enjoys session work for TV and film, and has played on a number of major film soundtracks as well as live on BBC Children in Need.
Steph comes from Kingston-upon-Thames and studied in Bremen, Germany, and then in Manchester. She graduated from the Joint Course at Manchester University and the Royal Northern College of Music in 2014 with distinction, winning a number of awards and competitions including the Sir John Barbarolli Memorial Prize for Cello.