The Škampa Quartet is among the very finest of an outstanding group of current Czech string quartets that has represented their country in major Concert Halls around the world for twenty five years.
Through their mentors, the legendary Smetana Quartet, they trace their roots to the earliest quartets - such as the Bohemian Quartet - in a land described in the 18th century as the Conservatoire of Europe and that remains, to this day, the very cradle of European Chamber Music.
To this innate musicality they have added their own particular research to inform their understanding of the folk-song and poetry, rhythms and dance from which their native music grew - to the extent that their recordings of the quartets by Janacek and Smetana particularly are quoted as the bench-marks against which other performances are judged.
This research resulted in, among other things, the production of an illustrated talk - ‘Janacek and his Moravian Roots’ - and led to collaboration with singer Iva Bittova which successfully crossed many musical boundaries.
Prizes at International Competitions, Awards from the Royal Philharmonic Society and others - and appointment as the first-ever Resident Artists at Wigmore Hall - marked the solidity of their early years and provided recognition which led to invitations to perform at major Festivals world-wide including Prague Spring, Schwetzingen, Edinburgh, Schleswig-Holstein and Melbourne.
These engagements included collaboration with many fine internationally recognised artists including Melvyn Tan, Itamar Golan, Josef Suk, Michael Collins, Kathryn Stott and Janine Jansen among many others.
From the beginning they have established a close relationship with BBC Radio 3 resulting in regular broadcasts from Wigmore Hall, St John’s Smith Square, LSO St Luke’s and the Chamber Music Proms.
The Škampa quartet have been award-winning recording artist for Supraphon for most of the Quartet's career. They are now also among the elite artists whose performances have been selected for release on the Wigmore Hall Live label.
Education has long been an important facet of their work, and one that they find particularly rewarding. They teach in many places around the world but particularly at the Royal Academy of Music in London where they were appointed Visiting Professors of Chamber Music in 2001.
“Blistering might be the overall description of how the Škampas played. Every nuance, every colour – from warm, soothing tone to terrifying rasping sul ponticello, with the widest of dynamic range, was delivered with white-hot energy.”
The Independent, December 2005
…Shostakovich [String Quartet No.11] often pits the first violin against the rest of the quartet, and Helena Jiříkovská captured the sense of struggle particularly in the fast ‘Etude’, in which her rapid figurations circled closely around a central pitch, struggling to break clear. At moments of repose the Škampa members were beautifully sensitive, creating a hush throughout the hall so that it was easy to pick out each individual voice, while they pressed home the composer’s ostinato passages so that they became impossible to avoid…
By contrast, Dvořák’s final published string quartet [Op.106] received a gloriously uninhibited performance. There are few thrills in chamber music to compare with a Czech string-quartet playing the music of its home-country. The Škampa caught the composer’s happiness on his returning to Bohemia from America in 1895… Once again a feature of the performance was a close attention to dynamic markings, with Jiříkovská in particular resisting the temptation to dominate proceedings, the ensemble extremely well balanced.
Ben Hogwood, Classicalsource.com
"They played [Janacek's First Quartet] with the drama of a four-movement opera.... For all their intuitive strengths playing Janacek, in a late Beethoven Quartet [Op. 127] they had as much to offer. In the Adagio, the most difficult to carry, they maintained shapely, beautifully spun long lines."
The Washington Post
“…standard repertoire it may be but I couldn’t hear Brahm’s chamber music too often when the performances are as complete as these [Škampa Quartet with Naoko Shimizu]