The Skampa Quartet has earned its place in the great Czech tradition of chamber music. With a long list of successful recordings, major prizes, and a presentation exploring the relationship between concert and folk music in Czech works, the group has found a strong following in England and beyond as well as in Eastern Europe.
The Skampa Quartet was formed in the tumultuous year of 1989, when the Communist government collapsed in what was then Czechoslovakia. It was named for Milan Skampa, a violist and teacher at the Prague Academy of Music who had taught the group's members; he was also a member of the famed Smetana Quartet, which exerted a strong influence over violinists Helena Jirikovska and Adela Stajnochrova, violist Martin Stupka, and cellist Lukas Polak.
Signed to the Supraphon label, the Skampa Quartet made its debut on disc in 1995 with a recording of music by Beethoven, Smetana, and Dvorak. The mix of Czech and mainstream Western European music has been characteristic of its output, although in 2012 it issued Morava, an album of contemporary works little known outside the Czech Republic. As early as the late 1990s, the Skampa Quartet began appearing on the lunchtime concert series broadcast by BBC Radio 3 in Britain, and one of those concerts, with pianist Melvyn Tan, was issued on CD in 2000. That exposure led to still-more-prestigious appearances at London's Wigmore Hall, where the quartet became the first ensemble ever to be named Resident Artists. Several of its performances were issued on the venue's own Wigmore Hall Live label. Members have also taught, as a group, at the Royal Academy of Music in London. In 2017 the Skampa Quartet was signed to the small Champs Hill label and released an acclaimed recording of Dvorák's String Quartet No. 12 in F major, Op. 96, and (with violist Krzysztof Chorzelski) the String Quintet in E flat major, Op. 97, the two works subtitled "American."