Rapidly gaining recognition on the international music scene for its deep and passionate interpretations of works ranging from Haydn to 21st century repertoire, the Karski Quartet was formed in Belgium in 2018 and performs in a wide range of venues througout Europe.
The quartet’s founding members are violinists Kaja Nowak and Natalia Kotarba, violinist and violist Diede Verpoest and cellist Julia Kotarba. Having played with one another in many different combinations, the four met as a quartet during the 2018 Resonances Festival Academy. Soon after they were awarded the Grand Prix as well as the Special Prize for the alumni of the Royal Conservatory in Brussels at the 4th International Music Competition Triomphe de l'Art in Brussels.
Since the inception of the quartet their mentors have been David Waterman, Philippe Graffin and Amy Norrington. In January 2019 the quartet joined the String Quartet Studio programme at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, working closely with Donald Grant (Elias Quartet), Petr Prause (Talich Quartet), Pavel Fischer (ex - Škampa Quartet) and Simon Rowland-Jones (ex – Chilingirian Quartet). Starting in September 2019 Karski Quartet will also be Artist in Residence at the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel in Waterloo/Brussels, studying with members of the Artemis Quartet and Miguel da Silva.
Karski Quartet takes its name from Jan Karski, the legendary World War II resistance-movement figure. Commited as he was to showing others the dramatic truth about the war, the Karski Quartet members strongly believe that every era needs heroes like him. Amid the serious difficulties which the whole human population is facing now, they find Karski's profound compassion and uncompromising attitude an example to be emulated in art as well as in life.
Polish violinist Kaja Nowak plays as soloist and chamber musician throughout Europe. Having made her concerto debut with the Rzeszów Philharmonic Orchestra in Poland at the age of thirteen, she has since performed with orchestras in Poland, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. As a chamber musician, Kaja has collaborated with artists such as Ivry Gitlis, Philippe Graffin, Jean-Marc Philips Varjabedian, Gary Hoffman, Nobuko Imai or Christian Ivaldi among others, as well as with many exciting musicians of her generation. She has been invited to perform at many chamber music festivals including Schiermonnikoog, Consonances, Musique de Chambre a Giverny, Resonances, Midis-Minimes, Rome Chamber Music Festival; she has also participated in the Open Chamber Music sessions at IMS Prussia Cove in the UK. Kaja has performed chamber music in venues such as Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Anton Philipszaal in The Hague, or Flagey in Brussels.
Kaja is a laureate of several Polish competitions in solo as well as chamber music disciplines, and the recipient of the Stage Personality prize, awarded upon her graduation from the Master programme in the Royal Conservatory in The Hague for her original and expressive music-making. She is also a member of the St. George Quintet, laureate of Supernova 2016 (competition co-organised by the Belgian classical music radio station Klara), praised by The Strad for their „expressive fluency and phrasing”.
Kaja studied with Robert Naściszewski in Rzeszów, with Konstanty Andrzej Kulka in Warsaw and with Philippe Graffin in The Hague and Brussels. She currently lives in Brussels and plays on a Carlo Antonio Tanegia violin. It is kindly loaned to her by Helen Brunner, to whom Kaja was for several years interpreter and assistant during her classes at the yearly Zenon Brzewski International Music Courses in Łańcut (Poland).
Natalia Kotarba is a Polish violinist born in Cracow, currently based in Brussels. She holds master degrees Cum Laude from the Academy of Music in Cracow and from the Royal Conservatory in Brussels, where she also pursued her Concertmusicus (artist diploma) programme in the class of Philippe Graffin. Natalia embraces keenly all aspects of a musician’s life. Among the artists she has had the opportunity to collaborate with in a chamber music setting are Jean-Claude Vanden Eynden, Philippe Graffin, Gordan Nikolic, Krzysztof Penderecki, Daniel Bard, Yura Lee, and the Oxalys Ensemble. She has appeared at music festivals such as Midis-Minimes, Festival Resonances and Ysaye’s Knokke in Belgium, Harmos Festival in Portugal, Istanbul Music Festival in Turkey, Elba Isola Musica d’Europa festival. She is part of the Belgian Sonos Ensemble, artist-in-residence in Tongeren (Belgium) for the season 2018/19. Natalia has also collaborated with orchestras such as Deutsches Radio Kammerorchester, Camerata Nordica ( Aurora Chamber Orchestra), Le Concert Olympique and Polish Art Philharmonic. She has had the honour
to perform at Bozar in the presence of the monarchs of Belgium and the Netherlands during the celebration of the 60th anniversary of Benelux in June 2018.
Natalia is a laureate of the Polish National Chamber Music Competition in Bydgoszcz in piano trio category (2014) and a laureate of La Fondation Chopin, a Belgian institution who awards prizes for succesful music students at the beginning of their careers (2017). She has had the opportunity to develop her skills in masterclasses with renowned artists and pedagogues such as Miriam Fried, David Waterman, Alasdair Beatson, Quartet Elias and Quatuor Ebene. She has also been strongly influenced by jazz improvisation lessons she took as a teenager with the renowned Polish jazzman Jarosław Śmietana. Natalia finds it important in her work to be open to different styles and kinds of music, which helps her create personal and honest interpretations of musical works. She is also a dedicated teacher and a great enthusiast of music-educational projects which help introduce children and young adults to the beautiful world of music.
In August 2018 & 2019 she served on the faculty during the Masterclasses for young musicians in Oslo, teaching violin and chamber music.
Belgian violinist and violist, a son of musician parents, Diede grew up in a house full of music. He received his very first violin lessons from his father. He later studied with Eric Sluys and went on to graduate with highest honours from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Brussels in the class of Philippe Graffin. He has also followed viola lessons with Tony Nys. Presently he serves as assistant in the Royal Conservatory of Brussels, in the violin class of Naaman Sluchin.
Diede has been awarded many prizes for his solo and chamber music performances, most recently in the Supernova competition 2019 (co-organised by the Belgian classical music radio stations Klara and Musiq3) together with his duo partner, pianist Claus Vermeulen. This resulted in many concert engagements for the season 2019/20 (featuring performances in the Bozar in Brussels) and a CD recording for the label Etcetera. Diede is also the violinist of Tmesis Ensemble (also laureates of the Supernova competition), and was also awarded the 1st Prize in the Dexia Classics competition in 2010 and the Mathilde Horlait-Dapsens Prize for his final recital at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels. As a violist, apart from being a member of the Karski Quartet, Diede has recently joined the St. George Quintet (praised by The Strad for their „expressive fluency and phrasing” in a review of their debut CD album, “British Legends”).
Diede has been invited to perform in chamber music festivals in Belgium and abroad, such as Resonances, Ysaye's Knokke, Midis-Minimes, Klarafestival, Schiermonnikoog, Harmos; he has also performed in Concertgebouw Brugge and De Singel (Antwerp). Diede’s violin playing can be heard on the debut CD of Tmesis Ensemble, “Echoes”, featuring pieces by Saint-Saëns, Debussy, Ravel, Schönberg, and the Belgian contemporary composer Frederik Neyrinck. As a violist, he can be heard on the recently released “Bohemia Express” CD album, featuring music by Dvořák, Janáček and Suk, recorded by the St. George Quintet. Together with the pianist Claus Vermeulen, Diede is also preparing a recording of violin-piano and viola-piano repertoire for the Etcetera label.
Diede has been inspired by many musicians, among them Marc and Guy Danel, Amy Norrington, David Waterman, Donald Grant, Pavel Fischer, Ursula Smith… Apart from the classical music repertoire, Diede feels very much drawn to the worlds of folk music, jazz and free improvisation. He is a member of the folk ensemble Roots, who have toured in Flanders and recorded two CD albums (“Point Blue” and “Rewind”). Diede is also a member of the country band The Dusty Millers.
Studied cello in Cracow Academy Of Music in Poland with Jan Kalinowski, in ARTez Institute of the Arts in Arnhem and also Brussels Royal Conservatory with Jeroen Reuling and Olsi Leka. She also followed a postgraduate string quartet course in Katowice Academy of Music with
Piotr Szumieł, member of the Apollon Musagete Quartet. Active as a soloist, chamber – and orchestra musician, she has received acclaim for both her solo and chamber music activities.
A very commited chamber musician, Julia was the cellist of the Airis Quartet between 2015 and 2018. During this time the quartet performed throughout Europe, recorded a CD album with the music of Karl Amadeus Hartmann and was awarded several prizes (Special Prize at the 1st Karol Szymanowski International String Quartet Competition in Katowice 2014, 3rd Prize at the International Music Competition Malta 2015, Special Prize for the best performance of 20th century piece at the 2nd Szymanowski International String Quartet Competition in Katowice 2017, Special Prize for the best performance of the piece by Krzysztof Penderecki at the 2nd International Beethoven Chamber Music Competition in Lusławice 2017). She has also been awarded the third prize in cello-accordion duo at the International Chamber Music Competition in Gorlice (Poland, 2013), and the third prize at the nationwide Cello Competition in Łodź (2009).
Since 2015 Julia is the soloist and principal cellist of the Polish Art Philharmonic, and also performs as guest concertmaster with Beethoven Academy Orchestra, Corda Cracovia amont others. As a cello teacher she taught cello at the music school in Domosławice (Poland) in cooperation with Krzysztof Penderecki’s European Culture Centre in Lusławice, and she has given masterclasses during Hello Cello Festival in Cracow and collaborates with the NOR59 Stryke Institutt in Oslo as well.
Julia has taken part in festivals such as Obersdorfer Musiksommer and Haus Marteau Festival in Germany, Noirlac Academy and ProQuartet IRCAM Festival in France, Midis-Minimes in Belgium, Young Talent Festival Schiermonnikoog in the Netherlands, and MUSE Intensive in Turkey. She has followed masterclasses with Gary Hoffman, Tomasz Strahl, Andrzej Orkisz, Jeroen Reuling, Michael Flaxman, Lars Hoefs, Peter Buck, Joanna Sachryn, Olsi Leka and Pierre Morlet.