6. Reviews

Here’s what people have been saying…


There is now an astounding quantity and range of music for viola ensemble

Absolute Zero Viola Quartet is providing a wonderful service to the viola community, right across the world. Viola players are so much more gregarious than violinists! They enthusiastically create opportunities on courses, summer schools and just privately to play together. The sound of viola ensembles is warm and wonderful! There is now an astounding quantity and range of music for viola ensembles, trios to octets, and nobody has done more than Absolute Zero Viola Quartet to promote, support and enrich this happy state of affairs. Their arrangements are always skilfully and tastefully done, and provide new pieces for all standards of players. I have used many of them on the viola workshops I lead in Ravenfield, and also at the Birmingham Conservatoire. Long may they continue!

Robin Ireland – Senior tutor at Birmingham Conservatoire, and formerly viola player with the Lindsay String Quartet


It’s terrific!

The violists in the Absolute Zero Viola Quartet are all members of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and seem to have, in addition to a love of the viola, a wonderful sense of humour as evidenced in their bios and in their repertoire (some of it also serious, by the way). And judging from the sound clips of their CD they are a very good-sounding group!

Michael Kimber

Top production values. A real pleasure to own

Not long ago, I put on an all-viola concert with RCM students at St. James’ Church, Piccadilly in London. The players, all as keen as mustard to fill the air with the richest string sounds known to mankind, would have gladly tackled any works they could lay their hands on. Spinning this fine new disc from Absolute Zero Viola Quartet fills me with retrospective envy: if only we had had some of these very skilful arrangements to hand at St. James’, what an even more cracking programme we could have made.

The performances on this record led me to consider recommending to Ross Cohen that the group should re-name itself Absolutely Brilliant. The variety of sounds the listener will hear is highly attractive. They range from resonant and sonorous to high virtuoso, and the rhythmic numbers have an infectious swing. The acoustics of the BBC studio in Cardiff provide just the right gloss on the sound coupled with a judicious fairly-close mike-ing. Top production values. A real pleasure to own. BRING OUT MORE OF THE SAME, ZERO’S.

Brian Hawkins – Former head of strings, Royal College of Music.


Thoughtful and passionate

I truly feel that anyone still blinkered enough to believe the viola to be a limited instrument could do no better than to hear these thoughtful and passionate players together.

Alice McVeigh – Daily Classical Music Magazine


Violists will find this enjoyable CD a welcome addition to their collection

This 71.38 playing time CD is the first studio recorded CD (that I know of) of viola quartets. All the pieces are professionally played and recorded. Arrangements for the four violas include works by: Rameau, Bach, Beethoven Quartet op.111 and a Beethoven ‘Boogie’, Bizet, Chopin, Brahms ‘Appassionata’, Saint-Saens ‘Danse Macabre’, 2 Rags, a Tango item, a pizzicato novelty item and 2 Irish dances. Clearly a wide and varied selection not often found on a single CD. Violists will find this enjoyable CD a welcome addition to their collection.Recommended.

Michael Vidulich – Former President of The International Viola Society


The recorded sound is sumptuous

Just a few days after I received my Spring CVS Newsletter, a package arrived from Ross Cohen of Cardiff, Wales. In his charming letter, Cohen outlined the history of Absolute Zero Viola Quartet, drawn from the viola section of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Also enclosed in the Package were the scores for all the pieces on the CD, so I could examine the part-writing as I listened. I found the CD very enjoyable. The recorded sound is sumptuous, thanks to the fine facilities at BBC Wales.

There are fourteen tracks in total, and the range of the program is large and varied. There is a splendid arrangement of the central movement of the Brahms Op. 120, No. 2 Sonata in E-flat Minor, shifted up half a tone to E-minor. As Ross Cohen wryly asks in his liner notes, “What was Brahms thinking?” for we all know the original is in that most “non-union” of keys – 6 flats! I also particularly enjoyed the Absolute Zero Rag written for them by Geoffrey Walker, Bizet’s Menuetto and Beethoven’s Boogie, an arrangement of a Variation from the Op.111 Piano Sonata.

To our knowledge, this is the first CD of Viola Quartets, and I give it 7 stars out of 8. I think all of us should support them by purchasing at least one. It would make a great holiday gift for violist friends and colleagues. Many of us will also be interested in obtaining scores and parts. All 14 pieces can be obtained from a PDF CD which can be purchased for about $100. The audio CD is a generous 71min 38sec. Ross Cohen assures me there are many more arrangements on the way. Let’s support these fine players on their initiative in making this charming music available in such an easily accessible form. I’m sure you’ll be glad you did.

Baird Knechtel – The Canadian Viola Society


A treasure trove of music

Although a viola player is usually regarded as a necessary ingredient in an orchestra or chamber music group, generally speaking it is only recently that violists have had the opportunity to develop their skills at specialist viola workshops. In South Yorkshire, since 2005, we have run termly viola workshops, tutored by Robin Ireland, to promote the viola and to improve the standard of viola playing. On-going workshops demand a large repertoire of music for viola ensembles. Much of this has been provided by Absolute Zero Viola Quartet. As a composer, transcriber, and arranger of music, Ross Cohen (and his alter ego, Sancho Engaño) has given us a treasure trove of viola music in a very wide range of styles. And, as he is a violist himself, he is very aware of the need for interest in all parts. Every month, Absolute Zero Viola Quartet generously emails us a new short piece for viola ensemble which we much appreciate. Thank you Absolute Zero Viola Quartet!

Natalie Wing


Violarama 2014


Want to know more? Get in touch: abzeroviolaquartet@gmail.com