Penrith, 22.2.2016, (English)
Villingen-Schwenningen, 29.01.2016, Schwarzwälder-Bote, (German)
Bensheim, 11. 4. 2015, Bergsträßer Anzeiger (German)
Bensheim, 11. 4. 2015, Darmstädter Echo (German)
Wigmore Hall, London, 28. 12. 2014, Financial Times (English)
Malvern, 27. 11. 2014, Malvern Concert Club Review (English)
Schloss Eggenberg, 20. 7. 2014, Kronenzeitung (German)
Vinehall School, 24. 11. 2012, larkreviews (English)
Graz 1.7. 2012, Kronen Zeitung (German)
Graz 1.7. 2012, Kleinen Zeitung (German)
Marseille 9.11. 2010 (French)
Bensheim 12. 6. 2010 (German)
Frankfurt, 3 April 2009, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (German)
Honolulu, 25th February, 2009 (English)
Prague, October 22, 2003, Suk Hall, Rudolfinum
Litoměřice, November 20, 2003, Theatre of Litoměřice
Prague, The Tenth Bohuslav Martinů Festival, 6 - 10 December 2004 (English)

Competition Reviews:

Reviews of Bordeaux competition
Review of 10th London International String Quartet Competition, 9 April 2006, The Telegraph (English)
Review of the MTMI Competition "New Talent 2003" in Bratislava

Reviews of CDs:

See the discography and find the reviews below every CD

Guido Holze
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Frankfurt, 3 April, 2009
Zemlinsky Quartett bei der Schumann-Gesellschaft

Mit wenig Vibrato, dadurch klar und ausdrucksvoller als in bebend-romantischer Gefühlswallung setzte das Zemlinsky Quartett Mozarts Streichquartett C-Dur KV 465 um. Dazu spielten Frantisek Soucek, Petr Strizek (Violinen), Petr Holman (Viola) und Vladimir Fortin (Cello) beim Konzert der Schumann-Gesellschaft in der Frankfurter Villa Bonn so locker wie präzis in vollkommenem Gleichklang fein kommunizierend und mit genauer Beachtung unerwarterer Modulationen. Schön mit der Chromatik in der langsamen Einleitung machten sie in auffallend fahlem Klang deutlich, warum das Werk den Beinamen "Dissonanzen-Quartett" trägt.

Ausgezeichnet fügte sich dem mit dem harmonisch weitgreifenden "Prälludium" in ähnlichem ton und als ebenfalls seinerzeit ambitionierte Komposition Alexander von Zemlinskys Quartett Nr. 4 op 25 an. Das junge twchechische Ensemble, das seit 1994 besteht und derzeit noch bei Walter Levin an der Musikakademie Basel Studiert, gewann der originellen, rhythmisch drängenden 'Burleske eine spontan zündende 'Wirkung ab, hielt aber auch gerade in den weniger schnell bewegten Teilen und im Piano stets aine unterschwellige Spannung - bis hin zum Finale mit der inspirierten Doppelfuge.

Ob Dvořáks Quartett F-Dur op. 96 wirklich so "amerikanisch" geprägt ist, steilte die sehr authentisch wirkende Interpretation des Zemlinsky Quartetts zumindest in Frage. Der ständige Shuffle-Rhythmus, wie er auch in der sinfonie "Aus der Neuen Welt" permanent präsent ist, gilt schliesslich als typisch für die tschechische Sprachrhythmik, wie sie Janáček später studiert und in seinen Kompositionen nachgeahmt hat. Dieser rhythmus trug auch die witzig-spritzige Zugabe, den bearbeiteten "Tanz der Komödianten" aus Smetanas Oper "Die verkaufte Braut". Ein frühlingschaftes Sichbeleben war vorausgegangen in grosser Unabhägigkeit der Stimmen und perfektem Miteinander.
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By Ruth Bingham
The Advertiser
Honolulu, 25th February, 2009

The Honolulu Chamber Music Series concludes on March 26, with baritone William Sharp and the renowned Peabody Trio, the resident ensemble of the Peabody Conservatory in Boston, comprised of mid-career faculty who have been performing together for 20 years.

That stands in contrast to the youthful Zemlinsky Quartet, which played with fervor at a concert last week. "The average age of the Zemlinsky Quartet is 28," James di Giambattista, president of the Honolulu Chamber Music Series, noted in his introduction, "and they've been playing together for 13 years."

In effect, these four musicians — Frantisek Soucek (first violin), Petr Strizek (second violin), Petr Holman (viola), and Vladimir Fortin (cello) — grew up together, which may account for their distinctive style. As an ensemble, they were less four equal and independent voices, the standard for string quartets, than one four-part instrument. Each seemed to be "playing into" a conception of the whole shared by all four. They moved as one in every nuance of phrasing, even going so far as to rush — as young, enthusiastic musicians are occasionally wont to do — together. Even when all four were playing, it remained perfectly clear which part was dominant, how the parts related, and where the counterpoint lay.

Theirs was an extraordinary sound. Despite their 13 years together, the Zemlinsky Quartet is still a young quartet. There were moments with rough edges and stray notes out of tune, but the fact that they have come so far so early in their careers suggests they have the potential to become one of the great quartets.

Tuesday's concert offered numerous highlights. They opened with Mozart's "Dissonance" Quartet (No. 19, K. 465, dedicated to Haydn), so nicknamed because of its chromatic opening reminiscent of Haydn's famous "Chaos" passage. In the hands of these musicians, Mozart's wild chromaticisms made eerie sense as individual lines "peeled off" one another, twisting away into unexpected realms before finally breaking into a sunny C-major allegro. Even in the most homophonous passages, their integrated playing revealed Mozart's counterpoint, and they delivered an absolutely hilarious fourth movement, the chromaticisms from the opening returning to enrich Mozart's parody of Haydn's humor. The Zemlinsky Quartet's Mozart felt carefully crafted, and was probably the cleanest reading, but the following works felt more instinctive, closer to the musicians' hearts.

In String Quartet No. 1 (Op. 4) by Alexander Zemlinsky, the ensemble's namesake, they captured the music's fiery, late-Romantic character, especially in the presto trio section of the second movement and in the sudden outbursts of the fourth. In the first movement, they used a striking effect that mimicked an accordion.

They closed with a relaxed reading of Dvorak's folk-inspired and ever-popular "American" Quartet (No. 12, Op. 96), their texture becoming more four-voiced and showcasing individual musicians in memorable solos.

In response to a standing ovation, the musicians offered a rousing arrangement of "Dance of the Comedians" from "The Bartered Bride" by Bedrich Smetana that ended in a humorous deconstruction of themes.

The youthful energy of the Zemlinsky Quartet also stood in contrast to the previous series concert, which featured pianist Leon Fleisher, now in his 80s and ending his career. He received a standing ovation as well
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Matthew Rye
Review of 10th London International String Quartet Competition
Final 9 April 2006
The Telegraph
Wednesday 12 April 2006

The winner of the 10th London International String Quartet Competition, which reached its climax at the Wigmore Hall on Sunday, was the Taiwanese-American Formosa Quartet. It was a tough, competitive final that could have gone a number of ways.

The audience, for example, saw things differently, giving its prize to the Zemlinsky Quartet from the Czech Republic - in the jury's eyes, this ensemble warranted third place, behind the UK's own Sacconi Quartet, which also lapped up prizes for the best rendition of Haydn and the best performances of the compulsory works (Wolf, Webern and Kurtág) in the earlier rounds.

So as not to be left out, the fourth competitor to have reached the final, the Carducci Quartet, also from Britain, was awarded a special runners-up prize. The jury members consider all the rounds - including preliminaries and semi-finals - when making their decision, which might explain the award to the Formosa Quartet after it gave an extremely polished but emotionally hollow account of Debussy's G minor Quartet in the final. The tone was glossy and sleek, but the articulation seemed over-calculated, and I missed the sense of pain and sadness in the slow movement's main theme.

For those of us not involved in the important decision-making, it was difficult not to be swayed by the chosen repertoire. I can't help feeling that the Carducci did itself few favours in opting for Shostakovich (No 9) when set against the Debussy from the Formosa, Britten from the Sacconi and Dvorák from the Zemlinsky.

Nonetheless, it was an admirable, well-delineated account, which dug deep into the music's sardonic humour, but didn't create as many waves as the other performances. The Sacconi's performance of Britten's Second Quartet, for example, had genuine substance, combined with a seemingly effortless command of the composer's difficult string-writing.

But I think I would have gone with the audience in the end. The Zemlinsky's account of Dvorák's A flat major Quartet, Op 105, was the real thing. Here was a group that played as one - visibly as much as audibly - and expressed that unanimity of purpose in a performance that was both suavely melodious and rhythmically acute.

Despite the jury's decision, though, I am heartened by the fact that the cream of today's British quartets, the Belcea, came only third in 1997, and has arguably made a much more significant impact since than the Auer or Castagneri Quartets, which pipped it to the post that year.
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Harry Halbreich
The Tenth Bohuslav Martinů Festival
Prague, 6th to 10th December, 2004
Bohuslav Martinů Newsletter
Vol. V, No. 1, January – March 2005

This year´s Festival, though being on a more modest scale than some previous ones, owing to financial problems, nevertheless maintained the usual high level of quality, and even yielded for me two major discoveries.

The first took place at the opening concert, a slightly belated hommage to Viktor Kalabis for his eightieth birthday (which was actually celebrated last year). The young Penguin Quartet, although founded ten years ago when its members were still teenager students, has already made a brilliant national and international career, but still continues studying. I heard these outstanding young artists for the first time performing the third of Kalabis´ seven String Quartets (1977), one of his very best pieces, whose three movements feature his highest qualities of concision, stylistic and thematic unity and elegance, not precluding expressive intensity and momentum. The composer got an enthusiastic ovation and acknowledged that he could not have dreamt of a better performance. The „Penguins“ showed immaculate intonation, amazing tonal variety, perfectly clear articulation and an exceptional sense of architecture, all at the service of vital but never exaggerated expression. They confirmed these outstanding qualities in Martinů´s rarely played and definitely underrated Third Quartet (H. 183), the most concise and possibly most experimental and „advanced“ of his seven numbered Quartets, the sharp-witted percussive sonorities of its outer movements enhanced by a slow movement of unexpected emotional intensity, sometimes even looking forward to the more celebrated Fifth Quartet, H. 268. The work ideally suits the „Penguins“´ qualities and thus it was a joy to hear it again the following day when they repeated it as winners of this year´s Martinů Foundation´s Competition.
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Robert Markow
Review of a CD
The Strad, January 2005

Suk String Quartet no. 1 in B flat Major op. 11, Meditation on an Old Czech Hymn "St Wenceslas" op. 35a, String Quartet no. 2 op. 31

This is the second CD from the Penguin Quartet. Based in Prague, the members of this ensemble are all in their 20s, yet have been together for ten years - this becomes apparent with the uncommon unanimity of sound, style and phrasing that infuses their playing. Perfect balance and buoyant self-assurance are further distinguishing qualities.

The two quartets by their countryman Josef Suk (grandfather of the eponymous violinist) are seldom recorded, making this release doubly welcome in such spirited performances. The First Quartet, composed when Suk was 22, obviously comes from the same musical soil as Dvořák and is full of memorable tunes and folksy dance rhythms. The Second Quartet, one long, half-hour movement, is a more troubled and introspective work, whose harmonic lenguage is more akin to that Janáček. The brief but deeply soul-searching Meditation on an Old Czech Hymn is the same work that appears on the Penguin´s first CD, another all-Czech programme.

If you are not already a fan of these works, you will be after listening to the Penguin Quartet. This is ensemble playing at its finest - a perfect blend of four voices that sing, breathe and phrase as one. The sound is warm and full, vigorous yet never forced or raucous. The recording acoustic is bright, dry, clean and well balanced. The instruments are closely miked, but these players can bear the scrutiny. Good liner notes add to the lustre of this release.
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Julian Haylock
Review of a CD
The Strad, February 2004

Dvořák String Quartet in F major op. 96 "American"
Janáček String Quartet no. 1 "Kreutzer Sonata"
Suk Meditation on Saint Wenceslas op. 35a
Richter String Quartet in C major op. 5 no. 1

As recently as September last year the Penguin Quartet, founded in 1994, won the International Tribune of Young Artists New Talent 2003 Competition in Bratislava. Members František Souček, Petr Střížek, Petr Holman and Vladimír Fortin can boast an immaculate pedigree, having at various times been trained by members of the Kocian, Talich, Dvořák, Prague, Cleveland, Alban Berg, Amadeus, Bartók, Smetana and Janáček quartets. If the playing on this their debut disc is anything to go by, it surely won´t be long before we hear more of this talented outfit. Dvořák´ American Quartet is a notoriously difficult work to bring off convincingly; the slow movement´s repetitive accompanying figure (pity the poor viola) requires great dynamic imagination and flexibility, while the Scherzo continually wrong-foots any unsuspecting player by placing what sounds like a series of anacruses on the first beat of the bar. The Penguin Quartet sounds quite unfazed by these potential pitfalls, however, playing with a freshness, buoyant articulation, nonchalant humour and technical command that has this hackneyed work sounding freshly minted. No less arresting is the Penguin´s heartfelt performance of Janáček´s First Quartet, which imbues the potentially dark and unsettling terrain with an interpretative warmth and vitality that magnetically draws the listener into the emotional discourse. Some may find their playing of Franz Xaver Richter´s proto-Classical op. 5 no. 1 a shade old-world in its avoidance of authentic good manners, but the Suk miniature is both beautifully shaped and intensely moving. A fine, naturally balanced recording rounds off a first-rate release.
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Eva Vítová
Review of a concert
October 22, 2003, Suk Hall, Rudolfinum, Prague
Harmonie, December 2003 (Harmony; musical magazine)
Prague, Czech Republic
(Translation: J. Frei & Z. Freiová)

It will be still more difficult to be familiar with the wide range of the young and youngest Czech quartets (Apollon Quartet, Epoque Quartet, Herold Quartet, Nostitz Quartet, Philharmonic Quartet, Jupiter Quartet, Bennewitz Quartet): their number increases steadily. The Penguin Quartet surely belongs to the youngest ones, for two of its members are still studying at the Academy of Performing Arts, Prague, the age of the players being between 23-28. Although they have been performing since 1994, for other quartet players they became known much later, during various competitions and scholarships, and for the audience they are a new ensemble. Their recital at the Suk Hall on October 22 was undoubtedly a crucial performance for them. For the concert, they had chosen works of classical perfection, professional accuracy as well as a sense of flying melodiousness (the quartet op. 5 Nr. 1 by F. X. Richter, the quartet in B flat major op. 11 by J. Suk, and the quartet in E flat major op. 74 by L. van Beethoven). The introductory quartet by Richter assured the listeners that the ensemble possesses beautiful sound and accurate interplay, both based on spontaneous musicality and technical readiness. The quartet by Suk was a surprise. The Ravel-like wide range of timbres showed the giftedness of the players, their will and ability to listen to one another and to "hand on" the solo phrases in the difficult chamber setting. All of them utilized their faculty of the solo playing, the first violin also the power of sensitive leading. The exceptionaly well articulated second violin and viola form a priceless pillar of the ensemble, the beautiful tone of the cello is an excellent partner of the first violin. In the quartet by Beethoven the players displayed themselves as an ensemble of well balanced sound: the tunefulness of the solo passages of the second movement, the expressive intensity of the unisono of the third movement, and the final gradation provided an evidence for the existing effort and for the drift of the ensemble. The Penguin Quartet took off well: it will find its place in the busy sphere of the chamber music.
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Lucie Hattanová
Review of a concert
November 20, 2003, Theatre of Litoměřice
Daily of Litoměřice, November 22, 2003
Litoměřice, Czech Republic
(Translation: J. Frei & Z. Freiová)

(...) Already the first composition of the concert convinced the numerous audience that the "Penguins" can dive very deep into the waters of music. Their presentation of the Meditation upon the old Czech chorale to St. Wenceslas op. 35a by Josef Suk sounded very convincing - not only because the players master their instruments superbly, but also thanks to their ability of concentration and interplay. In the Serenade No. 2 by Bohuslav Martinů, they presentated vividly the jocose theme of the first movement, and with a real sparkle the distinctive rhythms of the third movement. In the First Quartet by Leoš Janáček, the Penguin Quartet passed naturally from the reflective passages to the full sound of the lucid ones: the players used the extremes of the range of their instruments quite impressively. In the second half of the concert, the ensemble presented the Quartet in B flat major op. 11 by Josef Suk. The sweet theme of the first movement played with a lightness was followed by the pizzicatos and the brilliantly performed melody of the second movement. As an encore, they played masterly the final movement of the "American" Quartet by Dvořák. The presentation as a whole was very advanced and erudite: the Penguin Quartet played mainly compositions from their first CD. Their repertory numbers more than fifty chamber works. The "Penguins" with their distinctive expression will surely not get lost in the vast musical sea: we will hear of them yet.
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Marta Földešová
Review of the MTMI Competition "New Talent 2003" in Bratislava
Hudobný život, October 2003 (Musical Life; musical magazine)
Bratislava, Slovak Republic
(Translation: J. Frei & Z. Freiová)

(...) A deeper and more convincing impression was left by another representative from the Czech Republic, the Penguin Quartet, actually the only ensemble to be promoted to the semi-final of the Bratislava MTMI Competition. At their concert, they performed the First String Quartet by Leoš Janáček. The perfect interplay, clear conception, spontaneous, creative musicianship: these are the distinctive features of this ensemble's performance. No wonder that the Penguin Quartet became one of the finalists of the New Talent 2003. In the final, it represented the Czech musical sensibility as well as the great tradition of the interpretation of string quartets. The famous "American" Quartet in F major op. 96 by Dvořák, as presented by these young men who have been playing together since 1994, was simply flawless. It sounded subtly and wistfully, gently and vividly, youthfully and without bias. This, undoubtedly, was what convinced not only the audience, but also the international jury. The Czech chamber ensemble, Penguin Quartet, became the New Talent 2003, i. e. the winner of the MTMI Competition. We only have to join the well-wishers.
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