Images to illustrate the composition Threnody/Images by Henry B. Stewart:
Images to illustrate the composition Threnody/Images by Henry B. Stewart:
We're fans of Veronika Hagen, violist of the Hagen Quartet. Here are some words of wisdom, taken from Strad Magazine, July 11, 2013:
"Great musicians dispel their own ego and give themselves up completely to the composer in order to recreate his music.
Every member of a quartet must be prepared to listen. They must also be curious, disciplined and have a sense of humour.
How players get on with one other is the greatest challenge for a quartet. One needs to learn both how to criticise and how to react to criticism oneself.
Almost all music is chamber music – even a solo sonata – because it is a constant exchange of voices and instruments.
I always look forward to going on stage. I imagine the expectation of the people in the audience, who are prepared to leave their everyday life for a while to experience something special. I am very touched that I am able to move something in them.
With teaching it is very important to decide whether or not, in addition to passing on technical and artistic skills, one also wants to be a psychotherapist.
People’s preconceptions of the viola have changed a lot in the past twenty or thirty years. Thanks to some magnificent performers, it has freed itself from a Cinderella-like existence. Anyone who doubts this cannot be taken seriously.
The members of a quartet must have respect for one other – accept your colleagues as they are and work on yourself instead."
On May 26, 2013, the VQ perform the hauntingly beautiful Sanctus, by Riho Esko Maimets, winner of the international VQ New Works Competition. They are joined by cellist Jamie Walton for a performance of Schubert's masterpiece, the String Quintet in C Major, D. 956.
Join the VQ at St. Andrew's Church, Fulham on Sunday March 24 at 3:00pm for a programme featuring Mozart's String Quintet in G minor, K. 516 with guest Charles Sewart on viola, and the Elgar Quartet in E minor, Op. 83. Writer and broadcaster Roderick Swanston will give an informative talk on Elgar's music.
"In many ways, performing as a soloist is easier than performing chamber music. Chamber music is complex. There are so many possibilities in terms of ensemble and balance. Musicial choices and interpretations can change how you approach something in any given moment. Playing secondary and then all of a sudden shifting to playing a solo can be nervewracking - coming to the forefront and then sinking back into the texture of the piece is not easy. You are always adjusting sound, vibrato. Playing solo offers possibly more technical demands, but, it is your sound, your voice, your personal interpretation, your projection - it’s very self-involved. You always have to maximize bow, vibrato, sound projections, etc. This is, of course, not the case in a string quartet because you have to be thinking of three other people and what they are doing."
-Larry Dutton, violist of Emerson Quartet
The York Press
November 13. 2013
Review by Martin Dreyer
The Villiers are cagey about when they first got together. They needn’t be. Although it can barely be five years, they already had deep experience of playing in other ensembles.
It showed throughout their programme of Beethoven, Elgar and Glass for the British Music Society of York (BMS) on Friday.
For this is no quartet of young tyros. The opening Allegro of Beethoven’s Op 18 No 6 was confidently, but not condescendingly, signposted. There was an engaging serenity to the Adagio. Although its trio was a little rough at the edges, the Scherzo’s cross-accents were joyously precise.
But it was the mystical melancholy which opens the finale that took the breath away, brilliantly balanced by a feather-light Allegretto. This movement rarely sounds so persuasive.
Philip Glass’s Fifth String Quartet (1991) depends heavily for its effect on a rock-steady cello line. Nick Stringfellow provided that and more: a solid foundation off which his colleagues could bounce their theatricality.
The potential for monotony of Glass’s minimalism was thus neatly sidestepped, the upper voices matching his commitment and concentration.
After such metronomic tempos, it was a relief to encounter Elgar’s late E minor quartet, which gives the lie to the composer’s sometimes starchy reputation.
In the Villiers’ hands, this was English romanticism in full flood. Especially effective were the slow movement’s heartfelt pastorale, finely chiselled, and the finale’s race for the tape. Experience will out. We shall hear more of this group.
British Music Society
June 23rd, 2012
by Edward Clark
....The Villiers String Quartet played a concert including the world premiere of a string quartet by Robert Still, Dialectic for string quartet by Alan Bush, finishing with Cherry Ripe by Frank Bridge. The evening concert gave the world premiere in concert of the Violin Concerto by William Alwyn, sandwiched between two Russian classics.
Robert Still should have had his centenary celebrated in 2010 but even the BBC shamefully neglected this interesting and possibly important English composer and little is heard of his music today. He wrote four string quartets but alas did not date any of them. Two are without key signature and very likely were composed after his studies with Hans Keller in the 1960’s. (He died in 1971).
Still is remembered mainly for two symphonies no’s 3 and 4, which were recorded by Sir Eugene Goossens (no 3 in 1969) and Myer Fredman (no 4 in 1971). Both are available on the Lyrita label and make rewarding listening. The earlier two symphonies remain in manuscript with No 2 yet to be performed.
He composed a substantial a catalogue however with plenty of variety in genres; orchestral, songs, chamber, choral, opera and piano solo. Gibbons and his orchestra perform the world premiere of the Violin Concerto with Efi Christodoulou in May next year.
So some sort of reappraisal is becoming available; the string quartet heard on this occasion is without key so sounds a little different to the usual melodically inspired style employed generally. There is plenty of interest however with a modernist tinge suited to the time (no doubt under Keller’s benign influence). It makes a vivid impression with a final slow movement of limpid subtlety.
The Villiers String Quartet prepared the performance thoroughly and delivered the work with panache and a high degree of confidence in the music’s worth, so important for any world premiere. Dialectic by Alan Bush is an early work but one full of interest in its one movement form. Considered by some as one of the great English quartets it possesses a warmth and expertise that allows it to be so considered; it is a work within the Villiers’ core repertoire and received a superb performance much appreciated by the audience. After the rigours of two contrasting but intellectually stimulating quartets the concert ended with the tuneful and touching Cherry Ripe by Frank Bridge....
St Andrew’s Church, Fulham Fields, London, UK
29th April, 2012
by Edward Clark
Tucked away in suburban west London, in a recently restored church of great beauty, was a string quartet concert containing works of truly international, contemporary dimensions. This was the climactic concert of an innovative venture launched by the enterprising Villiers String Quartet, the quartet in residence at St Andrew’s Church.
A press release was released on-line calling for composer submissions from around the world. The upper age was 35, the piece had to be less than twenty minutes long, it had to be unpublished and it had to be for a classical string quartet. Fifty four submissions were sent in before the deadline of 5th January. All were read through by the quartet and six were chosen for the semi-finals. One movement of each work was uploaded onto You Tube and over the next thirty days people could vote on their favourite. 1200 votes were cast and three finalists were thereby selected for this concert. The winner received £500 plus a recording of his work and a performance next season.
First to be played was the longest work, by Riho Esko Maimets, a Canadian national of Estonian descent. His works opens with soft, mysterious sounds, a lament appears on the cello being joined by other instruments playing harmonics. A viola pizzicato heralds the main musical material which retains a ritualistic flavour throughout, drawn from various religious traditions.
Regression to the quiet opening merely confirms a desire for nonconformity towards usual expectations of even a modern string quartet. The audience should be congratulated on maintaining absolute silence for the ethereal end which quietly descends into a peaceful close.
The second performance by the American Henry Stewart is written about two images, the first a photograph by Gary Goldberg found in The Family of Woman. This begins with a drone on cello, joined by a solemn melody on viola with high support from the two violins; lyricism appears that has a post-Barber intensity. This then dissolves back into the opening refrain. The end is sudden and laconic.
The second movement is about a hallucination the composer had as a child. His vision was a great, terrible black fire on the horizon of an empty plain. It opens has the two violins competing for attention through the use of various string devices. Like in the first movement a kind of modernism gives way to a more lyrical approach, though this time of an urgent nature. Adams replaces Barber as the main influence here. There is a thrusting quality that generates genuine excitement. Calm descends into a stoic coda. Calm after the storm perhaps.
Chris Roe was inspired to write his Jetez! (French for Throw) after seeing a couple of local French people amusing themselves by throwing stones and various projectiles off the edge of a high cliff near to the small French village of Auvillar.
Hence the opening possessed a busy, somewhat threatening impulse which barely relents throughout its very short time span. There is little content as such, more music for effect which is perhaps the main point of the inspiration. For our age of short attention spans it is undoubtedly effective.
And so to the judging by both the listeners at the well attended venue and on-line, the concert having been streamed on the internet.
It is hardly surprising not to find influences in each work: Arvo Part’s mysticism is clearly evident in Maimets's work; I have alluded to Barber and Adams in Threnody/Images by Stewart. No direct associations are to be heard in the final piece but it is so brief I was not really involved.
Maimet’s Sanctus was the deserved winner. It had a greater depth and sincerity than the other two works. It demonstrated an ability to work with original material and keep the attention of the audience, as shown by the rapt silence at its end.
The qualities of the Villiers Quartet were well shown in the performances, with evidence of careful preparation and excellent execution. No more so than in their buoyant and felicitous playing in the marvellous Haydn quartet which ended the concert in suitable style.
It's been an incredible season of music at St. Andrew's - we thank everyone for their support, especially the team at St. Andrew's as we have grown and transformed with them alongside the renovation works! Here are some photos from our Haydn, Delius & Bush programme from May 27, 2012. Photographs taken by the lovely Charles Gervais of Both Hemispheres Photography.
Photographs by Charles Gervais, Both Hemispheres Photography