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A classical supergroup in the making

Category: News & Views: International Concert Season

Left to right: Lauma Skride, Baiba Skride, Lise Berthaud and Julian Steckel.

Which childhood memories do you hold close to your heart? For some, the answer may be laughter and ice cream, trips to Grandma’s house, or homework on a sunny afternoon.

But for the Skride sisters, these memories were augmented by the experience of performing live music together as a family.

"We would go all around Latvia to perform – even to earn money for the family that way," violinist Baiba Skride recalls.

She was born into great musical talent – her mother an accompanist, late father a choral conductor, and grandmother teaching her and sisters Lauma and Linda how to sing.

It’s no wonder Baiba picked up the violin at just four years old, paving the way for a globally successful music career into her adulthood.

"We didn’t really decide to forge our careers – rather, it happened automatically and gradually throughout the years," she says.

Those years have turned into more than three decades of performing together. And, as an audience member at the Skride Piano Quartet’s Musica Viva tour, you’ll become part of this family’s history, too.

"We have lived together for a while; experienced many exciting moments in and outside of concert life – so we do have a strong bond," Baiba says of her relationship with sister Lauma, who plays piano in the quartet.

"We can trust each other on a different level. We can take risks, we can get into the music much deeper all together. It’s a very fulfilling experience."

Of course, it’s not a duo featuring just Baiba and Lauma you’re here to see. These Skride sisters have also opened their doors to two worthy players outside the family – violist Lise Berthaud and cellist Julian Steckel.

When explaining why the sisters dared to bring these artists into their own musical world, Baiba explains: "It has been very important to both of us to get inspirations, new ideas, and to learn from other musicians."

Lise has performed as a soloist with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Sao Paulo Philharmonic Orchestra, and Orchestre National de Lyon. She has also played in all BBC orchestras as part of the BBC Radio 3’s New Generation Artists Scheme from 2013-15.

Baiba says Lise is “like a rock in our quartet – always perfectly prepared, has great ideas and solutions”.

On the other hand, Julian provides “the perfect base – he is such a musical person, and so easy to work with!”. Julian won the 2010 ARD Musikwettbewerb, and has played as soloist with Orchestre de Paris, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, and St. Petersberg Philharmonic.

"I like honesty in musicians, and both of them are very down to earth, caring deeply about music," Baiba says of these colleagues.

You may start to see why Musica Viva describes Skride as a "new classical supergroup" – with these years of performance credits behind them, it’s certainly a fitting label. But while the four musicians have achieved great levels of success in their own careers, there’s still plenty to learn from each other.

"We can trust each other on a different level. We can take risks, we can get into the music much deeper all together. It’s a very fulfilling experience."

Though Baiba and Lauma may have developed the musical intuition that can only come from lifetime of performing together, their group rehearsals and performances aren’t built on passive trust.

"Every concert, you learn something new about yourself or the partners,” Baiba reveals.

“Everyone reacts differently to certain situations, on stage or off. You are able to build a whole different foundation on which you can experiment with new things, or just perfect those already learnt.”

The programs allow room for this sort of experimentation. The Mozart Piano Quartet no 1 in G minor, K478 (Program 1) and Beethoven Piano Quartet no 1 in E-flat major, WoO 36 (Program 2) are pieces Skride played in its very first program as a group.

"Those are works you can play and study all your life, and always find something different in them."

The Richard Strauss Piano Quartet in C minor, op 13 Baiba describes as "not an easy work" for players and audience alike. But it’s worth the investment – "once you get into it, it is a very beautiful and captivating work".

It will be replaced by the equally captivating Brahms' Piano Quartet no 1 in G minor, op 25 for Program 2.

The world premiere of Australian composer Graeme Koehne’s Socrates' Garden appears on both programs. It was commissioned for Musica Viva Australia by Tom Breen and Rachael Kohn. Baiba also considers it important for music organisations and ensembles to commission and perform new works.

"It is our duty as interpreters to keep classical music alive and innovative."

To help keep the concert experience alive, the quartet offers Musica Viva audiences the chance to meet the musicians in sessions, signings, and pre-concert talks.

"For the audiences, it is very nice to see that we musicians are normal people with dreams, anxieties, normal wishes, normal lives," Baiba says. And she’ll enjoy it, too.

"It’s a great experience to get to know our loyal listeners...and how they feel about our interpretation of the music we play. A good performance is only possible if there is interaction and participation of both the artist and the audience.

"It’s great to get a connection!"

The Skride Piano Quartet tour Australia from 2 - 19 Nov

See full tour details and book tickets here.

Listen to our Skride Piano Quartet playlist below:


Stephanie Eslake is a freelance arts journalist. She is also the founding editor of CutCommon, Australia's leading publication for emerging classical music practitioners.