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Musical World

Joel Quarrington

  • Double Bass


Born in Toronto, Joel Quarrington began playing the bass at the age of eleven in order to complete a bluegrass/folk trio with his two older brothers, Tony and Paul. Tony Quarrington is the acclaimed jazz guitarist and composer and Paul is the famous writer and musican who passed away in January 2010 leaving a rich and widely varied legacy of music, books, movies and other writings.

Joel began formal studies of the double bass when he was thirteen with Thomas Monohan, the late principal bassist of the Toronto Symphony as well as Peter Madgett who was also a member of the Toronto Symphony. Upon graduation from the University of Toronto, he was awarded the “Eaton Scholarship” as the school’s most outstanding graduate. Subsequent studies took him to Italy and Austria where he studied with two legendary bass masters, Franco Petracchi and Ludwig Streicher.

Joel is a winner of the Geneva International Competition, and has made solo appearances in Canada, the United States, Europe and China. He has played concerti with many Canadian orchestras including those of the National Arts Centre, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Hamilton, and as well as the Toronto Symphony.

For over thirty years Joel has served as the Principal Double Bassist of many ensembles including the Canadian Opera Company, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa and during the 2009/2010 had the pleasure of being Guest Principal Bass of the London Symphony Orchestra performing with their music directors past and present, Michael Tilson Thomas, Colin Davis and Valery Gergiev.

In April of 2005 Joel had the honour of playing the world premier John Harbison’s Concerto for Bass Viol with the Toronto Symphony and Hugh Wolf.

Joel Quarrington teaches at Montreal’s McGill University and in the summers, at the Orford Arts Centre (Quebec), where his master classes have attracted players from around the world. He has been a guest teacher for the Danish Bass Society and Beijing’s China Conservatory, as well as the Australian String Academy and London’s Royal Academy of Music.

Joel Quarrington is in great demand as a chamber musician and has performed with many of the world’s leading string quartets including the Orford, Vermeer, Cleveland, Colorado, St. Lawrence, Allegri, Artis, Leipzig and Tokyo Quartets. He is particularly honoured to have been a part of a 1982 recording session with the legendary Glenn Gould for the soundtrack of Timothy Findley’s The Wars. Written for solo cello and bass and based on Brahms’ Intermezzi, this turned out to be the last music composed by Gould before his untimely death.

Joel is a regular performer with the Pinchas Zukerman Chamber Players. Their Sony recording of Schubert’s Trout Quintet with Yefim Bronfman became an instant classic.

Joel’s solo recordings, Virtuoso Reality on CBC Records and  his two NAXOS discs of the music by Giovanni Bottesini were all released to critical acclaim. September 2009 saw the release of his newest recording, “Garden Scene” which is from the Analekta record company of Montreal. “Garden Scene” received the highest award in the Canadian Recording Industry, the 2010 Juno Award for the most outstanding recording of classical music in the solo/chamber music category.

He performs on an Italian bass made in 1630 by the Italian master, Santo Paolo Maggini and is an enthusiastic advocate of the historical practice of tuning the bass in fifths (CGDA, an octave lower than the cello) rather than the customary fourths. He believes fifths tuning leads to clearer and more accurate performance in all ranges of the bass, as well as greater tonal richness.

In his spare time, Joel is a truly terrible Erhu player (chinese two string violin) and has already released his seventh erhu cd, “Erhu’s (the) Greatest; A Golden Decade” which is a compilation disc and features the Quarrington Brothers 1999 appearence on Peter Gzwoski’s CBC radio show “Morningside” as well as highlights from such memorable recordings as “Country Erhu ‘98“, “Everybody Digs the Erhu“, “The Three Erhus at the Acropolis” and “Erhus From Beyond the Galaxy“.