Meet the Artist – Engegård Quartet

Engegård Quartet are Arvid Engegård (first violin), Alex Robson (second violin), Juliet Jopling (viola), Jan Clemens Carlsen (cello)

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?

AE: When I was born my father supposedly said “He is going to be violinist”. I grew up in a very inspiring musical environment.

AR: My parents were both musicians.

JJ: Music means so much to me on so many levels, it’s pretty much impossible to choose any other career. I’ve been lucky enough to meet several extremely talented musicians and composers who have both inspired and helped me, and am eternally thankful to my quartet colleagues and the quartet repertoire for on-going tolerance, motivation and inspiration.

JCC: Both my parents are musicians and classical music was always present during my childhood. I started playing an instrument myself very early. On my tenth birthday I received a collection of CD’s featuring many great works and cellists. The individuality of different musicians from Pablo Casals to Truls Mørk, their individual sound, style, vibrato and interpretations really intrigued and fascinated me. About the same time I became a part of the Barratt-Due Music Institute’s program for talented young musicians where I met many like-minded young people who shared my interest and passion. I don’t remember when I decided that I wanted to become a musician, but I know for sure that I never considered anything else!

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

AE: Sandor Vegh. I was his concertmaster and assistant for many years

AR: My teachers Bjarne Fiskum and Levon Chillingirian

JJ: My family, including my Mum, Dad, aunt Louise Grattan, sister Daisy and brother Orlando. Martha Argerich, Dinu Lipati, Pablo Casals, Sandor Vegh, Alban Berg Quartet, Borodin String Quartet, Hagen Quartet.

JCC: I have been blessed with great teachers. All of them had very different personalities and approaches towards teaching and cello playing. Hans Josef Groh was my teacher for 9 years and shares a lot of the blame for me becoming a cellist! Apart from memories of many wonderful lessons with him, I still remember his impeccable left foot skills on the football pitch (my second passion).

I began my studies in Salzburg with Heidi Litschauer. The most important thing she taught me is the connection between how you sit, the posture while playing and what kind of tension there needs to be present in the body to influence the sound you make. You have to feel well to play well. My next teacher was Christoph Richter (Folkwang Hochschule, Essen). From him I learnt the importance of hard work and also the importance of trying to unearth the composer’s thoughts and wishes from the score, even though that can be very tricky. My final teacher was Truls Mørk (Norwegian Academy of Music). Just to watch him play and see how easy cello playing can be taught me a lot of important lessons!

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

AE: To find the right people to play in the Quartet with.

JJ: Moving from England to Norway in 2004. The continual transformation from dreams to reality in Quartet life.

JCC: Finding the balance between being a father to four children and being married to a musician has been, and still is challenging at times. Finding a balance between family life and being a free-lance musician is not always easy. There are always sacrifices that have to be made.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

AE: I am very proud of the last recordings we have made for LAWO (Schumann piano quintet and quartet with Nils Anders Mortensen, Mozart String Quartets).

AR: Our Mozart, Schumann and Grieg quartets

JJ: I am pathologically critical of myself so that’s an incredibly difficult question to answer. Perhaps the recording of Mozart kv 387, 458 and 464 will be the one! Memorable performances… Beethoven’s opus 132 in Oslo’s Gamle Logen a couple of years ago. We managed a shared focus level that was very powerful, and the music really shone through.

JCC: It is hard to choose, but I’m really happy with our Schuman quartets recording. We are in the middle of a complete Mozart recording project that also seems very promising!

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

AE: This is impossible to say. Maybe Haydn op 76 or Beethoven op 132..?

AR: Mozart, Beethoven and Bartok string quartets

JJ: I guess one gets good at what one does most often. And we have a great focus on the classical repertoire, so it feels great to work on Mozart and Beethoven together. It’s also good fun to let ourselves go a bit in Norwegian repertoire like Grieg’s g minor quartet which we more or less know from memory, so it feels joyfully free.

JCC: As a quartet we have played a lot, and that I think one piece we do particularly well is Grieg’s wonderful string quartet in G-minor. We also share a great passion for the quartets of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven that have led to some very good performances.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

AE: We try not to have too many works going at the same time. Our “123” festival in Oslo is an important factor.

AR: One great composer after another.

JJ: We have built up an annual festival called “På 123”, when we perform one composer over three days. This obviously is both hugely rewarding and demanding, and it certainly shapes our work in the long term. This September 4th to 6th, we’re presenting Mustonen på 123. (Finnish composer and pianist, Olli Mustonen f.1967). I can’t wait!

JCC: We have a festival in Oslo, featuring a different composer each year, that determines our main focus for the coming year.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

AE: I love the churches in Lofoten where I have my chamber music festival. Lots of great memories.

AR: Carnegie and Wigmore halls.

JJ: I think that the audience is much more important for me than the venue. A responsive, engaged audience gives us huge inspiration. Which has made these Corona times so very demanding. And the two things probably go hand in hand, at least to some extent. An attractive venue often attracts great audiences and great musicians, win win all round.

JCC: I really enjoy playing at Oslo Quartet Series in Gamle Logen in Oslo. The audience is wonderful and just being part of this fantastic series is an enormous pleasure!

What is your most memorable concert experience?

AE: Maybe when we have played the same piece many times in the Quartet. Then we get to a new level.

AR: Too many to mention!

JJ: Schubert 5 with Camerata Academica in Salzburg under Sandor Vegh. Not long after, I had the huge honour to perform at Sandor Vegh’s funeral.

JCC: I am not able to choose one I have played myself. I have had the privilege of playing for so many wonderful audiences. However, as a young boy, aged about 14, I attended a concert with Steven Isserlis and the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra. That concert was hugely inspiring at that time, and is still a fond memory!

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

AE: To play in the way you wish to.

AR: That the audience can see that we really understand a certain piece.

JJ: On a personal level, to achieve focus, both in rehearsals and on the concert platform. On a professional level, to sustain a career as a string quartet, with a balance of international and domestic concerts, recordings, and educational activities.

JCC: As long as I develop as a musician and am able to share my feelings with an audience regularly, I consider myself successful. 

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

AE: Music is life and death!

AR: To believe in yourself and go your own way.

JJ: To be in touch with one’s passion and motivation, one’s love for music, and to hold that close through thick and thin.

JCC: It is easy to say: practise, practise, practise, but the most important thing is that you really have to ENJOY what you are doing and know WHY you are doing it. If this is missing all your hard hours of practising will be fruitless. Also, there are a lot of concerts to be heard in every town – GO TO THEM and get inspired


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