Finland-based Tempera Quartet is best known for its incisive interpretations of the complete string quartet oeuvre of Jean Sibelius. Tackling some 20 works, or 70-odd movements, that make up the Finnish master's output, is no small feat, and the Tempera Quartet received high praise from critics for its three-CD set on BIS, which contains this mostly neglected music. But the Tempera Quartet has hardly limited itself to Sibelius, as its repertory takes in works by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Debussy, Bartók, Shostakovich, and many others, including contemporary Finnish composers Kalevi Aho, Einojuhani Rautavaara, Aulis Sallinen, Pehr Henrik Nordgren, and Paavo Korpijaakko. Some of these composers have written works specifically for the Tempera Quartet, which has come to be ranked by many as the leading Finnish string quartet. In addition to BIS, the TQ has recorded for Alba and Phaedra.
The Tempera Quartet was formed in 1997. The members of this all-female ensemble are: Laura Vikman and Silva Koskela (violins), Tiila Kangas (viola), and Ulla Lampela (cello). Most of the members also play in a major Finnish orchestra and/or teach at a leading Finnish conservatory.
From the time of their formation, the TQ gradually built its reputation, generally drawing positive notice both at home and abroad. It was chosen by the European Concert Hall Organization to perform as part of the Rising Stars scheme for the 2000-2001 concert season. This distinction carried with it debut recitals at the Vienna Musikverein, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, the Paris Cité de la Musique, London's Wigmore Hall, and Carnegie Hall, all of which were critical successes. Subsequent tours would take the TQ to Eastern Europe, Asia, Japan, UAE, and elsewhere on the globe.
The TQ launched its Sibelius project for BIS in 2005, with the 1885 E flat major Quartet and various smaller Sibelius works written from 1885-1889. Critics were impressed and the next two volumes, released in 2006 and 2007, respectively, had similar success.
Meanwhile, live concerts were becoming major events, not least because they often premiered important new works, like the String Quartets No. 9 (2004), No. 10 (2007), and No. 11 (2008) by Nordgren, as well as the 2007 String Quartet No. 2 by Korpijaakko, which the TQ had commissioned and which was also dedicated to it. The TQ went on to record the Nordgren Quartets No. 10 and No. 11 on an acclaimed 2011 Alba CD.