Winner of the 2014 Royal Over-Seas League Ensemble Competition, the Solem Quartet was formed in 2011 at the University of Manchester. The quartet takes its name from the university’s motto “arduus ad solem”, meaning “striving towards the sun”.
The quartet enjoys a busy concert schedule performing at venues both across the UK – including Wigmore Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Bridgewater Hall and Holywell Music Room – and internationally. In keeping with its name, the Solem Quartet’s first project was to play the Haydn Op. 20 “Sun” Quartets. Their repertoire is extensive, spanning the period from early Haydn to a broad spectrum of living composers including Larry Goves, Anna Meredith, John Luther Adams and Emily Howard, whose quartet ‘Afference’ they performed in a BBC Proms Extra broadcast, live on BBC Radio 3.
They were 2016/17 Park Lane Group Artists and have given recitals at Wigmore Hall, Kings Place, St John’s Smith Square and St Martin-in-the-fields as part of the PLG recital series. From 2015-17 they held the Junior Fellowship in Chamber Music at the RNCM, giving regular coaching to chamber ensembles as well as a series of concerts.
Since September 2016 the quartet has been ‘Quartet in Residence’ at the University of Liverpool, and was also recently appointed ‘Ensemble in Residence’ at Aberystwyth MusicFest. They were selected as Tunnell Trust Artists in 2016, leading to a tour of Scotland in 2018. This year they will undertake a tour of China, with nine concerts in some of the country’s major concert halls.
L to R:
Alistair Vennart, Amy Tress, Stephanie Tress, William Newell
The quartet features prominently on a CD of music by Richard Blackford, released on the Nimbus label in February 2019. The first work on the disc, Seven Hokusai Miniatures, was written for the quartet in 2018; each movement is based on a selection of paintings by the Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai, with representations of landscapes, seascapes and scenes from Japanese life around Mount Fuji. The quartet has also recorded two CDs of 20th Century British music for Divine Arts.
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 and Richard Ireland. They have attended IMS Prussia Cove and the European Chamber Music Academy, as well as courses with the Chilingirian, Dante and Maggini Quartets. The quartet was delighted to have been selected for the prestigious ChamberStudio Mentorship 2014/2015, which allowed them to study intensively with the internationally renowned cellist Christoph Richter at Kings Place.
The quartet is particularly excited to have been privately commissioned to undertake a Beethoven and Bartók cycle beginning in 2020, which will feature performances of Bartók’s six quartets from memory, alongside Beethoven’s late quartets. The cycle will also include six brand new works, bringing the quartet’s total tally of commissions and premieres to sixteen.
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 Masters 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.
Amy has participated in many solo and chamber music festivals, including IMS Prussia Cove, Wye Valley Chamber Music, Keshet Eilon in Israel, Mendelssohn-on-Mull Festival and Academie Internationale de Maurice Ravel. She teaches violin at Eton College, Windsor, and since August 2014 has directed her own course, La Mariette Junior Masterclasses in France.
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 and series Flowers (2016, 2018), and the BBC One series Ghosts (2019).
Alistair is from Northumberland and started playing the Viola when he was 9 years old. He graduated from the University of Manchester in 2011 gaining several prizes including the Keith Elcombe Award for highest overall performance, and then went on to postgraduate study at the RNCM with generous support from the Seary Charitable Trust, the Headley Trust and the RNCM Friends. He was awarded the Thomas Barratt Memorial Prize for Viola in July 2013.
Alistair studied with Dr Louise Lansdown for 4 years at Manchester University and the RNCM, and with Contemporary Specialist Garth Knox from 2013-14. He has had lessons and masterclasses with some of the world's greatest Violists including Thomas Reibl, Nobuku Imai, Maxim Rysanov, Roland Glassl, Tatjana Masurenko, Simon Rowland-Jones, Adam Romer and Susie Meszaros. Alistair works professionally with the Hallé, Sinfonia Cymru, Northern Chamber Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic and the Royal Northern Sinfonia, and is currently on trial for a co-principal position with the Orchestra of Opera North. He has appeared as a soloist in Germany, Italy, Switzerland and the UK, including performing Mozart Sinfonia Concertante with Manchester University Symphony Orchestra and Bach Brandenburg Concerto no. 6 with the Talich Quartet’s Vladimir Bukac. Alistair is in demand as a versatile performer, playing a wide variety of musical genres, and as a tutor in Violin, Viola and Chamber Music, working for organisations such as Junior RNCM, Pro Corda and Yorkshire Young Musicians. He also has a side-profession in composition and arrangement, writing new music commissions for the Solem Quartet and fiddle trio ‘Y Singhs’, as well as creating new arrangements of existing music, notably for the BBC documentary ‘Dancing Cheek to Cheek: An Intimate History of Dance’.
Steph graduated from the Joint Course at the University of Manchester and the Royal Northern College of Music in 2013 and 2014 respectively. She received a First Class degree from both institutions and a number of prizes, most notably winning the Sir John Barbirolli Cello Prize (2013). Prior to that she studied at the HfK in Bremen, Germany, with Alexander Baillie. While at school, Steph studied with Michal Kaznowski at the RCM Junior Department.
As a soloist she has performed a number of concertos with orchestras around the UK, and is a regular guest principal with Sinfonia Cymru. As an orchestral extra she has played with the Halle, BBC Philharmonic, Manchester Camerata and Opera North. She is also the cellist of the contemporary music group House of Bedlam, with whom she has given workshops and courses and performed in Manchester, Liverpool, London and Aldeburgh, often for Radio 3 broadcast. Recent performances have involved jumping on a trampoline while singing in Latin, eating marshmallows into a microphone while whistling, and exhibiting (limited) skill at playing the kazoo.