University of Calgary

String Quartet nominated

Nov. 18, 2008

UCalgary String Quartet gains recognition on the national stage

Allan Powell

The UCalgary String Quartet: (L-R) Edmond Agopian, Beth Root Sandvoss, Adriana Lebedovich and  Dean O’Brien. / Photo by Allan Powell

The UCalgary String Quartet has been nominated for the Instrumental Group of the Year Award at the 2008 Canadian Folk Music Awards. The awards ceremony will be in St. John’s Newfoundland Sunday, Nov. 23.


The quartet’s nominated album Far Behind I Left my Country—Klezmer and East European Folk Music is a collection of songs based on traditional folk melodies and rhythms, arranged and composed by Department of Music professor Edmond Agopian, founder and first violinist of the quartet.

Agopian says the inspiration for the album came from personal experience, but that the musical themes speak to the emotions felt by many immigrants. “The repertoire on the disc is a reflection of the Canadian cultural mosaic. It is perhaps the inherent spiritual experience of all immigrants to a new country, including myself, to have a deep felt, soul-stirring nostalgia for their native land. The country I left behind is Romania. This recording is a reflection of the musical styles and musical languages of different ethnic origins, which have co-existed and have cross-fertilized over the course of history in Romania, and throughout Eastern Europe.”

The wild and passionate rhythms of Gypsy music might seem like a far cry from the traditional image of a string quartet playing a repertoire of serious classical works, but Agopian suggests that they are not so incompatible. “My first violin teacher was a Romanian Gypsy who was able to walk comfortably in two musical cultures: the stringent, methodical, classical violin school, and the ‘play by ear’ folk tradition. It is these two schools of violin playing and musical vocabulary, always a part of my own violin playing, which have inspired the quartet on Far Behind I Left My Country. “

The quartet has had a busy year; after recording Far Behind I Left My Country in early 2008, the group embarked on a spring tour of Portugal, garnering rave reviews and invitations to return. This fall, they are continuing their ambitious project of performing and recording the entire Beethoven string quartet cycle. Now they will be jetting to Newfoundland to see if their nominated album wins the big prize. “It’s exciting news” says Agopian.

The UCalgary String Quartet

Edmond Agopian, first violin, is a professor at the University of Calgary, and music director of the Calgary Youth Orchestra, Mount Royal College Conservatory.

Adriana Lebedovich, second violin, is a member of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and is in her final year of a Bachelor of Music degree in violin at the University of Calgary.

Dean O’Brien, viola, is a viola and chamber music instructor at the University of Calgary and Mount Royal College Conservatory, and is principal viola of the Red Deer Symphony.

Beth Root Sandvoss, cello, is a cello and chamber music instructor at the University of Calgary and Mount Royal College Conservatory, and is a member of the award winning Land’s End Chamber Ensemble.