Orava Quartet has been hailed by The Australian as ‘the real deal’ when it comes to chamber music, so we were eager to hear about their recent endeavours! Even more pertinent is the fact that all four of these brilliant musicians are alumni of the Australian Youth Orchestra. We caught up with the quartet to hear about their journey; from their modest beginnings as young members of the AYO, to their present occupations as chamber musicians of international acclaim.
Violist Thomas Chawner reflects on the quartet’s beginnings:
We formed the Orava Quartet in 2007 whilst we were students at the Sydney Conservatorium. Brothers Daniel and Karol have been playing chamber music together since a very young age. We started the quartet with the intention of player development, and not necessarily with the long-term goal of becoming an established quartet. However, every concert and opportunity seemed to help us grow and spark a desire to become a professional quartet.
“I hadn’t completely decided if I was a viola player or not before that Young Symphonists, but I was definitely one when I left!”
– Thomas Chawner, viola
Thomas was a participant at AYO Young Symphonists three years in a row, and believes the program is a valuable starting point for young musicians looking to take a step into the realm of orchestral music:
For me, the Young Symphonists program was a real eye-opener. I got to meet great young musicians and perform awesome repertoire with them. Even though I had played violin for many years, I was very new to the viola when I did my first Young Symphonists; it was just a few months after I had picked it up. I still had issues with reading alto clef in fast passages and it was the first time that I had played Shostakovich’s eighth quartet. I had to memorise the whole second movement because I couldn’t keep up with the notes flying by in alto clef! I hadn’t completely decided if I was a viola player or not before that Young Symphonists, but I was definitely one when I left! I had such a great experience that I went on to participate in almost every single program that AYO had to offer.
“The technical and musical proficiency gained at these programs has been invaluable, along with the many contacts and friends we’ve made through the AYO.”
– David Dalseno, violin
It’s not only Thomas that gained valuable experience from the Australian Youth Orchestra, all four musicians have come along to an AYO program or two along the way! Violinist David Dalseno talks fondly of his memories at AYO National Music Camp:
Being a part of AYO programs has had a significant impact on our careers – not only for the learning and growth around the music, but actually Daniel, Thomas and I first met at AYO National Music Camp! We also met our future teachers and mentors, the Takacs Quartet, at the 2011 AYO Chamber Players program. The technical and musical proficiency gained at these programs has been invaluable, along with the many contacts and friends we’ve made through the AYO.
For the remaining two members of the quartet – brothers Daniel and Karol Kowalik – music has been a part of their life since a young age. Now, more than ever, the quartet’s routine revolves almost entirely around practice, rehearsals, and teaching:
We all still play in symphony and chamber orchestras – but string quartet playing is our primary focus. A typical day for the Orava Quartet can change from week to week; in many ways this is the exciting thing about being in a string quartet, lots of variety! However, most days involve anywhere between 3 to 5 hours of Quartet rehearsal, with some teaching or other rehearsals slotted in around that.
So what’s on the horizon for the Orava Quartet this year?
We are lucky to have some exciting things planned for the not-too-distant future: we’re just back from Canberra International Music Festival, and have our first ever performance in Darwin next month. We’re looking forward to Orava Quartet concerts at Melbourne Recital Centre on 25 October, and Sydney Opera House Utzon Room on 26 October. We also have some more festival appearances lined up this year, including a return to Tyalgum, and Huntington Estate Music Festivals.
While you’re here…
We are always proud to see our AYO alumni flourish in their careers. Their successes remind us that whatever direction they may choose, they take their experience of AYO with them and continue to benefit from it for the rest of their lives. If you’d like to support the development of Australia’s young musicians, find out more about donating to AYO here.