Winner of the 2014 Royal Over-Seas League Ensemble Competition, the Solem Quartet was formed in 2011 at the University of Manchester. The quartet takes its name from the university’s motto “arduus ad solem”, meaning “striving towards the sun”.
The quartet enjoys a busy concert schedule performing at venues both across the UK – including Wigmore Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Bridgewater Hall and Holywell Music Room – and internationally. In keeping with its name, the Solem Quartet’s first project was to play the Haydn Op. 20 “Sun” Quartets. Their repertoire is now extensive, spanning the period from early Haydn to living composers such as Emily Howard, whose quartet ‘Afference’ they performed in a BBC Proms Extra broadcast, live on BBC Radio 3.
The Solem Quartet has benefited from inspirational teaching from a number of the world’s greatest chamber musicians including Gábor Takács-Nagy, Thomas Adès, Michal Kaznowski, Gerhard Schulz and Richard Ireland. They have attended IMS Prussia Cove and the European Chamber Music Academy, as well as courses with the Chilingirian, Dante and Maggini Quartets. The quartet was delighted to have been selected for the prestigious ChamberStudio Mentorship 2014/2015, which allowed them to study intensively with the internationally renowned cellist Christoph Richter at Kings Place.
The Solem Quartet has recorded two CDs of 20th Century British music for Divine Arts record company. They were 2016/17 Park Lane Group Artists and have given recitals at Wigmore Hall, Kings Place, St John’s Smith Square and St Martin-in-the-fields as part of the PLG recital series. They were also selected as Tunnell Trust Artists in 2016, leading to a tour of Scotland in 2018. From 2015-17 the quartet held the Junior Fellowship in Chamber Music at the RNCM, giving regular coaching to chamber ensembles as well as a series of concerts. The Solems also enjoy working with Live Music Now, giving concerts and workshops in a number of special needs schools and care homes across the UK.
Since September 2016 the Solem Quartet has been ‘Quartet in Residence’ at the University of Liverpool. They were also recently appointed ‘Ensemble in Residence’ at Aberystwyth MusicFest. The quartet is particularly excited to have been privately commissioned to undertake a complete Beethoven and Bartok cycle, which will start in 2020 and take place in London and Aberystwyth over a three-year period.
Amy Tress (violin)
Violinist Amy Tress enjoys a busy career as a soloist, chamber musician and teacher. Winner of numerous awards including Oxford University’s Gibbs Prize for the highest 1st class Music degree and the Royal College of Music Violin Competition & Unaccompanied Bach Prize, Amy has regularly appeared at major concert venues across the UK such as the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Wigmore Hall.
Amy’s concerto performances with orchestra have included Brahms, Shostakovich, Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Korngold, Schnittke Concerto Grosso and the Bach Double, as well as Ravel’s Tzigane, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherezade and Sibelius’s Humoresques. As well as the Solem Quartet, Amy is violinist of the Lipatti Piano Quartet, winners of the Elias Fawcett Trust Award for an Outstanding Chamber Ensemble at the finals of the Royal Overseas League Competition 2016 and Park Lane Group Artists 2015-16. Their recent performances have included Wigmore Hall, St-Martin-in-the-Fields and the Purcell Room, London. Amy also performs regularly with the unconducted string orchestra 12ensemble.
Having studied Music at Christ Church, Oxford, Amy won a scholarship for Masters and Artist Diploma at the Royal College of Music, with Professor Maciej Rakowski. Subsequently she studied with Professor Pavel Vernikov at the Scuola di Musica di Fiesole, Italy.
Amy has participated in many solo and chamber music festivals, including IMS Prussia Cove, Wye Valley Chamber Music, Keshet Eilon in Israel, Mendelssohn-on-Mull Festival and Academie Internationale de Maurice Ravel. She teaches violin at Eton College, Windsor, and since August 2014 has directed her own course, La Mariette Junior Masterclasses in France.
William Newell (violin)
London-based violinist William Newell has recently graduated with Distinction from his Master’s degree at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, where he studied with Krysia Osostowicz and Alexander Janiczek. He has performed in masterclasses with András Keller, the Takacs Quartet and Levon Chilingirian. At the Guildhall School, he performed John Adams’ Chamber Symphony in the presence of the composer in the Barbican Hall, was recipient of the St James’ Piccadilly prize in 2015 and the Sherriff’s Prize for Music upon graduating in 2017.
Aside from the Solem Quartet, William is second violin of Ensemble Nova Luce. Future plans include a CD recording and performances across the UK. As an orchestral musician at the Guildhall School, he performed side-by-side with the London Symphony Orchestra under Valery Gergiev and Sir Simon Rattle.
Originally from Romford in Essex, William enjoys performing a wide range of music. He is a member of the Mead Men, a sea shanty group, and has appeared alongside Bring Me The Horizon and Alter Bridge at the Royal Albert Hall; performed in televised performances with Eminem, Clean Bandit, We Are The Ocean and Deacon Blue; and recorded for Phoria, Eliza and the Bear, Goldsmoke, and Slowlights. His violin and viola playing was featured on the 2016 Channel 4 series Flowers.
Alistair Vennart (viola)
Alistair is from Northumberland and started playing the Viola when he was 9 years old. He graduated from the University of Manchester in 2011 gaining several prizes including the Keith Elcombe Award for highest overall performance, and then went on to postgraduate study at the RNCM with generous support from the Seary Charitable Trust, the Headley Trust and the RNCM Friends. He was awarded the Thomas Barratt Memorial Prize for Viola in July 2013.
Alistair studied with Dr Louise Lansdown for 4 years at Manchester University and the RNCM, and with Contemporary Specialist Garth Knox from 2013-14. He has had lessons and masterclasses with some of the world’s greatest Violists including Thomas Reibl, Nobuku Imai, Maxim Rysanov, Roland Glassl, Tatjana Masurenko, Simon Rowland-Jones, Adam Romer and Susie Meszaros. Alistair works professionally with the Hallé, Sinfonia Cymru, Northern Chamber Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic and the Royal Northern Sinfonia, and is currently on trial for a co-principal position with the Orchestra of Opera North. He has appeared as a soloist in Germany, Italy, Switzerland and the UK, including performing Mozart Sinfonia Concertante with Manchester University Symphony Orchestra and Bach Brandenburg Concerto no. 6 with the Talich Quartet’s Vladimir Bukac. Alistair is in demand as a versatile performer, playing a wide variety of musical genres, and as a tutor in Violin, Viola and Chamber Music, working for organisations such as Junior RNCM, Pro Corda and Yorkshire Young Musicians. He also has a side-profession in composition and arrangement, writing new music commissions for the Solem Quartet and fiddle trio ‘Y Singhs’, as well as creating new arrangements of existing music, notably for the BBC documentary ‘Dancing Cheek to Cheek: An Intimate History of Dance’.
Stephanie Tress (cello)
Steph graduated from the Joint Course at the University of Manchester and the Royal Northern College of Music in 2013 and 2014 respectively. She received a First Class degree from both institutions and a number of prizes, most notably winning the Sir John Barbirolli Cello Prize (2013). Prior to that she studied at the HfK in Bremen, Germany, with Alexander Baillie. While at school, Steph studied with Michal Kaznowski at the RCM Junior Department.
As a soloist she has performed a number of concertos with orchestras around the UK, and as an orchestral extra she has played with the Halle, BBC Philharmonic, Manchester Camerata and Opera North. She is also the cellist of the contemporary music group House of Bedlam, with whom she has given workshops and courses and performed in Manchester, Liverpool, London and Aldeburgh.