World Class String Quartets in Lyon

On a rainy afternoon, three excellent quartets gathered at the Hotel de Ville of Lyon and offered the audience music from heaven.

Conceived as a festival, the competition offers some twenty recitals over the course of a few days. As the organization's avowed aim is to bring out personalities rather than virtuosos, the semi-finalists present in Lyon are offered two one-hour recitals, with a repertoire left open, no set pieces but discoveries, with incentives in the form of prizes, and a strong emphasis on French composers, whom the musicians will take on the task of revealing to the public locally and around the world. 

For three days, the 7 quartets present in Lyon presented two recitals designed to show the full range of their talents, with different characters, nuances that were sometimes brilliant, sometimes gentle, brutal or caressing, precise, offering their musicality in perfect harmony and sensitivity.  

Talent is everywhere, and it was difficult for the jury to select the three finalists: Arete, Varen and Hesper vied with each other in the musical arena. 

While Arete thrilled the audience with their brilliant performance of Janacek's Quartet no. 1 (Kreutzer Sonata), the Varen foursome gave a harmonious setting to Mozart and Debussy, and a special aura to turn-of-the-century French composer Jean Cras with his work "A ma Bretagne". Last but not least, Hesper, like the evening star that gave them their name, told us beautiful stories, and earned their place in the final with their sacred interpretation of Sophie Lacaze's "Het Lam Gods". Their "Death and the Maiden" was equally solemn and evocative of tragedy, but pierced by rays of light.

The amphitheater of Lyon University where the semi-finals took place: when one competition reflects another ancient one.

The Jury and Judith Chaine
photo by Delphine Stos

For the final round, this year, violist Jean-Baptiste Magnon lent his talent to the finalists of the competition, allowing them to take detours in a quintet for two violas, with works by Brahms, Mendelssohn and Mozart. This allowed the musicians to demonstrate their ability to integrate an artist at the last minute, without having completed their rehearsal work.

The three quartets played in the beautiful Salon of the Hotel de Ville.

Hesper Quartet started with the first movement of the Brahms Quintet n°2, then presented a bright and majestic performance of one of the most beautiful works for quartets, Beethoven n°15. Lots of light in the music of this evening star! We are looking forward to hearing them again very soon!

The Varen Quartet prefered Mendelsohn's Quintet followed by Beethoven's Razumovsky Quartet. No doubt that this very young and promising quartet will be in the news these next years!

Ah, Arete's Mozart! So clear and obvious. The clever Quartet then proposes a difficult work by Alban Berg, but the audience was not mistaken and the enthousiasm is general! Arete Quartet wins the Audience Prize, most of the special prizes and of course the Jury confirms their talent by giving them the First Prize!

the Salon of the Hotel de Ville de Lyon

Detail of the ceiling

Hesper Quartet and Jean-Baptiste Magnon

Quatuor Varen


Quartet Arete – Seoul / 1st Prize and Audience Prize
Chaeann Jeon, violin 
Eunjoong Park, violin 
Yoonsun Jang, viola 
Seonghyeon Park, cello

Hesper Quartet – New York / 2nd Prize
SojeongKim, violin 
Ye Jin Yoon, violin 
SoHui Yun, alto 
Connor Kim, cello

Quatuor Varen – Paris / 3rd Prize
Jean-Baptiste Lachemet, violin 
Elliott Pages, violin 
David Heusler, viola 
Adèle Quartier de Andrade, cello

Jury: Marie Chilemme (Quatuor Ebène - viola), Chair ; Mihaela Martin (Quartet Michelangelo - violin) ; Goran Končar (Zagreb Quartet, violin) ; Kyril Zlotnikov (erusalem Quartet - cello) ; Niklas Schmidt (Fine Arts Quartet - cello)

Artists:  Jean-Baptiste Magnon, viola soloist of the Lyon Opera