The University of Saskatchewan Amati Quartet thrilled audiences in its debut season, playing to capacity crowds and presenting time-honored classics of the string quartet repertoire. The quartet performs on seventeenth century instruments crafted by the Amati family of Cremona, Italy, and collected by the late Stephen Kolbinson, one of Saskatchewan’s first homesteaders. The quartet of instruments (two violins, a viola, and a cello) is unique in Canada, and one of only three sets in the world. In 1959, the collector sold the instruments to the University of Saskatchewan with the deep desire that these rare gems be shared with the people of Saskatchewan. Appointed by University President Peter MacKinnon in August 2003, the members of the Amati Quartet are honored to both represent the University of Saskatchewan and to bring to fruition the dreams of the visionary collector, Stephen Kolbinson.
In March 2005 the Amati Quartet made its international debut in Holland - during the Amati 500th Festival celebrating the 500th anniversary of the birth of Andrea Amati. They performed in ensembles with 14 other musicians, also playing rare Amati instruments, including Gil Sharon, Rivka Golani, Atar Arad, Chi-Chi Nwanoku, and members of the Talich String Quartet.
In May 2005 the Amati Quartet performed for Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert, and her honor Dr. Lynda Haverstock Lieutenant Governor General of Saskatchewan with eleven thousand spectators at the Lieutenant Governor’s Celebration of the Arts Gala held in honor of Saskatchewan’s 100th Anniversary.
The Amati Quartet was honored to perform as guest artists with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the SSO at a sold-out gala concert in March 2006. An invitation to perform in Rome, and in Cremona - the birthplace of the Amati instruments - took the Amati Quartet to Italy in September 2006 where they delighted the audiences with their performances of Haydn, Cherubini and Dvorak: ‘Great applause from a huge crowd for the Canadian Amati Quartet’ (La Provincia, Italy).
In 2007 the Amati Quartet performed for University of Saskatchewan centennial celebrations, for a meeting of all Canadian University Presidents, for the Saskatoon Mayor’s Inaugural Cultural Gala, and for a gathering of all the Lieutenant Governor Generals of Canada. Also in 2007, the quartet received a grant from the Saskatchewan Arts Board to commission a work from composer Neil Currie. ‘Prairie Air’ was premiered on Dec. 2, 2007 – a work for the U of S Amati Quartet and the U of S Greystone Singers conducted by Dr. Gerald Langer.
In 2008 the quartet’s final concert of the season ‘Discover Great Britain’ which included performances of Elgar and Vaughan Williams String quartets was recorded and broadcast by CBC radio.
The Amati Quartet Gala Fundraiser on May 2, 2009 raised $20,000 for the Saskatoon Cancer Centre.
A staged performance of Purcell’s opera ‘King Arthur’ was performend in Saskatoon, Regina, and Moose Jaw in 2012. This was a collaboration with the Amati Quartet, the Saskatoon Opera and the University of Saskatchewan Music Department.
Guest artists that have performed with the Amati Quartet include Guy Few (trumpet and piano), Nadina Mackie Jackson (bassoon), Henri Loiselle (bass-baritone), Bonnie Nicholson (piano), Randi Nelson (flute), Thomas Yu (piano), Ben Schenstead (guitar), Renée de Moissac (harpsichord), and Samuel Deason –(piano).
The Annual Thanksgiving Monday concerts began in 2013 to provide talented young musicians living in Saskatchewan with solo opportunities. William Boan (violin), Arthur Boan, (violin), Miles Cole (cello), Carmen Cole (violin), Hans Deason (cello), Solveig Deason (violin), Amos Friesen (cello), Godwin Friesen (piano), Silas Friesen (trumpet), Simone Friesen (violin), Emmett Fortosky (double Bass), Samuel Milner (violin), and Zäide Masich (cello) have been soloists with the quartet members as mentors and providing orchestral accompaniment.
‘The Haydn Project’ that commenced in their first season with the intention of performing all of Haydn’s string quartets has progressed to the half way marker thus far. ‘Passion for Haydn’, their new CD will be available starting in September, 2016.
Now in its fourteenth season the Amati Quartet continues to champion the music of Joseph Haydn, the creator of the string quartet genre, whilst rejoicing in all of the vast and rich repertoire for the string quartet, and indulging in diverse chamber music repertoire with guest performers.
Please see their website at www.amatiquartet.usask.ca