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Jürgen Schwietering Back - Abrie de Wet (violin)
Left - Michael Haller (cello)
Right - Derek Ochse (leader of quartet)
Front - John Wille (viola)
Juan Munoz

Pre-history: 50 years of quartet music at the UFS

The founding of the Odeion String Quartet in 1991 can be traced back to the establishment of the Free State String Quartet at the UFS in 1960, thirty years earlier. The first members of the Free State String Quartet were Jack de Wet (first violin and leader), Noël Travers (second violin), Francois Bougenon (viola) and Harry Cremers (cello). Travers later left and was followed up by Jonas Pieters. The founding of the quartet was the beginning of string and symphony orchestra development in the Free State.

The Free State String Quartet dissolved when Jack de Wet moved to Port Elizabeth at the end of 1972. The UFS piano quartet was established in the early eighties with Johan Potgieter as pianist and the three string players, Derek Ochse, John Wille and Michael Haller.

The 50 year anniversary of string quartet music in the Free State and the quartet’s inheritance was celebrated in August 2010 with a special Odeion String Quartet concert where Jack de Wet was present.

Courage in the midst of suffering: The founding of the Odeion String Quartet

The founding of the Odeion String Quartet in June 1991 was a milestone, and emblematic of the university’s thinking in the midst of financial crisis. The cello post was threatened with rationalisation, in turn endangering both the UFS strings section itself and its role in the Free State Symphony Orchestra. Prof Frederic Fourie (himself a cellist) made an urgent plea to the rector, Prof Francois Retief. Prof Retief was sympathetic and involved the then vice-rector Prof Dawfré Roode (also a music lover and son of the founder of the UFS Department of Music, Prof Dawid Roode).

His imaginative suggestions led to the University taking the brave step of reconstructing four strings posts into the form of a separate academic entity, the Odeion String Quartet – a full-time residential string quartet. The quartet stands independently outside any faculty. Their primary task is countrywide professional performances and a leading role in the symphonic orchestra, as well as the directive to lecture string students of the Department of Music.

Source: From Grey to Gold—The first 100 years of the University of the Free State (UFS Centenary History Book 2006).



The Odeion String Quartet
20 years

The Odeion String Quartet is a flagship of the UFS and symbolises the university’s commitment to the arts. It plays an important strategic role in the development of symphony orchestra music and in classical music training in the Free State. It is the only resident string quartet at a South African university.

This concert celebrates the 20th anniversary of the founding of the quartet, which was established at the University of the Free State in 1991 as a permanent, full-time resident string quartet. The founder members were Derek Ochse (first violin and leader), Abrie de Wet (second violin), John Wille (viola) en Michael Haller (cello) – then members of the UFS Department of Music. The debut concert of the quartet was on 13 September 1991.

Thereafter the quartet played a leading role in orchestra training in the Free State and carries the UFS banner countrywide with regular performances in all major cities, as well as in rural areas. In August 1996 the quartet took part, by invitation, in the Kamermusik Fest in Oslo.

The quartet took part in music festivals in Zimbabwe and Botswana, as well as all the major arts festivals in South Africa. Over the years they performed with artists of international acclaim like pianists Anton Nel and Setta Tanyel, the Australian (now British) pianists Leslie Howard and Pierce Lane, violinists Arve Tellufsen, Tasmin Little and Elizabeth Wahlfish, violist Nokuthula Ngwenyama, cellist Collin Carr and the Norwegian Vertavo String Quartet. The quartet has also been a key participant in the annual Chamber Music Festivals in Bloemfontein. Several CDs were produced.

For the first eight years, the quartet comprised the same four players. After Derek Ochse retired at the end of 1999, Juan Muñoz joined the quartet as leader. He initiated a very entrepreneurial approach and several innovative projects followed, including new CDs and enthusiastic marketing at schools.

After his resignation in 2002, the renowned Cape Town violinist Jürgen Schwietering was appointed leader in 2004. The quartet continued the pattern of regular performances in all the main centres, including the Cape Town International Concert Series, The Friends of Music in Durban, the Northwards Music Society, Mount Grace and Classic FM in Johannesburg. By this time the quartet’s repertoire was in excess of 70 major works, excluding more than 20 string quintets, a number of sextets and octets and numerous single movement works.

Schwietering’s resignation in 2007, as well as that of Abrie de Wet, followed by the retirement of John Wille and Michael Haller, presented an opportunity to reconstitute the quartet afresh. Following an extensive search, nationally and internationally, Denise Sutton (leader and first violin), Sharon de Kock (violin), Jeanne-Louise Moolman (viola) and Anmari van der Westhuizen (cello) were appointed in 2008. They have extensive national and international backgrounds and are highly regarded in music circles as soloists and chamber musicians. Their inaugural concert was on 6 November 2008.

Since then the newly constituted quartet has performed to critical acclaim in all the major centres in the country, as well as in SADC countries, steadily building their repertoire. Repeat invitations to major venues attest to their appeal. Guest artists whom have appeared with them include Leslie Howard, Albie van Schalkwyk, Catherine Foxcroft, James Grace, Leon Bosch and Marion Lewin. Recently the quartet started to record Hendrik Hofmeyr’s string quartets.

The members of the quartet play an important role as teachers at the UFS Department of Music, attracting students from all over the country. They lead the string sections of the Free State Symphony Orchestra (FSSO), coach the string sections of the Free State Youth Orchestra (FSYO), train the Junior Odeion String Quartet and assist with the Mangaung Strings Project. Thus the quartet is an essential part of UFS collaboration with the FSSO, the FSYO, the Free State Department of Arts and Culture, and Pacofs.


FACULTY CONTACT

T: +27 51 401 2240 or humanities@ufs.ac.za

Postgraduate:
Marizanne Cloete: +27 51 401 2592

Undergraduate:
Katlego Mabulana: +27 51 401 2495
Juanita Hlongwane: +27 51 401 3269

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