Canadian-Armenian Cellist Karen Ouzounian’s Aizuri Quartet Takes Top Prize in Osaka

OSAKA, Japan (The Strad)—The Aizuri Quartet (U.S), featuring Canadian-Armenian cellist Karen Ouzounian, has won first prize, worth 3 million JPY ($27,000 USD), in the string quartet section of the Ninth Osaka International Chamber Music Competition in Japan.

The triennial event took place May 13-21 in the string quartet and wind ensemble categories, which ran alongside masterclasses, concerts, and an informal Festa, with no age or repertoire restrictions.

Second prize in the string quartet division, worth 1.5 million JPY went to the Ulysses Quartet from the U.S., while third prize, worth one million JPY went to the Viano String Quartet, also from the U.S.

This year’s jury was chaired by cellist Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi and included violinists Martin Beaver, Kazuki Sawa and Levon Chilingirian; violists Yoshiko Kawamoto and Homggang Li; and cellist Paul Katz.

Third prize winner at the 2015 Wigmore Hall International String Quartet Competition in London, the Aizuri Quartet comprises violinists Miho Saegusa and Ariana Kim, violist Ayane Kozasa, and cellist Karen Ouzounian. The ensemble was Ernst Stiefel String Quartet in Residence at the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts from 2015 to 2016, and String Quartet in Residence at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia from 2014 to 2016.

Described as “radiant” and “expressive” (The New York Times) and “nothing less than gorgeous” (Memphis Commercial Appeal), cellist Karen Ouzounian approaches music-making with a deeply communicative and passionate spirit. At home in diverse musical settings, she has become increasingly drawn towards unusual collaborations and eclectic contemporary repertoire.

In addition to her work with the Aizuri Quartet, Ouzounian’s commitment to adventurous programming and the collaborative process has led to her membership in the Grammy-nominated, self-conducted chamber orchestra A Far Cry, and the critically-acclaimed new music collective counter)induction. Highlights of Ouzounian’s recent and upcoming seasons include performances of the Elgar Concerto in Chile with the Philharmonic Orchestra of Santiago, tours with the Silk Road Ensemble and Mark Morris Dance Group, recitals at the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts with pianist Ieva Jokubaviciute, a tour of Japan with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and tours with Musicians from Marlboro and Musicians from Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute. Additionally she has performed with The Knights, Trio Cavatina, and as guest principal of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, IRIS Orchestra, and Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia.

Born to Armenian parents in Toronto, Ouzounian was a prizewinner at the 2012 Canada Council for the Arts Musical Instrument Bank Competition. She holds Master of Music and Bachelor of Music degrees from The Juilliard School, where she was a student of Timothy Eddy.