April 24, 2017

 

The Villiers Quartet releases their landmark recording of string quartets by Frederick Delius and Edward Elgar. Recorded with producer Michael Whight and released on Naxos Records, the recording is the culmination of a Delius research project initiated with Professor Daniel M. Grimley of Oxford University where the VQ is Quartet-in-Residence. The recording notably contains the World Premiere Recording of two movements from the Delius Quartet (1916) in their Original Versions, uncovered together by Villiers Quartet's lead violinist James Dickenson, and Professor Grimley at the British Library in London. The recording will be available for worldwide release on 12th May 2017.

 

Tracklisting & CD Information

 

Frederick Delius (1862 – 1934): String Quartet in E minor RT VIII/8 (1917)

Frederick Delius (1862 – 1934): Two Movements from Original Version (1916) *World Premiere Recording

Edward Elgar (1857 – 1934): String Quartet in E minor, Op. 83

 

Naxos 8.573586 [Bar Code 747313358670] Single CD/Standard Jewel Case/Mid Price

Release Date: 12th May 2017 (also available on most streaming and download services from same date)

 

Repertoire Information (with grateful thanks to Professor Daniel Grimley of Merton College, Oxford)

 

For a generation of musicians who lived through the terrifying events of the First World War, responding to the seemingly incomprehensible impact of the conflict became a compelling creative challenge. Many promising younger figures, such as George Butterworth and Ernest Farrar, paid the ultimate price, killed in action on the Western front. The legacy of the war left its mark in other ways on the music of Ralph Vaughan Williams, who spent two periods of active service as an ambulance orderly in France. Edward Elgar and Frederick Delius, close contemporaries but almost diametrically opposed personalities, were too old at the time of the war’s outbreak to be called up for military duty (though Elgar was briefly a member of his local Hampstead Constabulary). For both men, however, the war had a profound effect upon their later work, and it is impossible to separate their two remarkable string quartets from the historical circumstances of their creation.

 

Elgar’s initial response to the war was to engage energetically in patriotic music-making activities intended to raise the public spirit. But the strain induced by the harrowing news from the continent eventually precipitated a nervous breakdown in 1917. Elgar’s wife, Alice, arranged their removal from London to a rural cottage on the edge of the Sussex weald. It was here that Elgar finally began to recuperate and compose once more, completing a series of three new chamber pieces (the Violin Sonata, Piano Quintet, and String Quartet), alongside his Cello Concerto. Elgar began sketching the quartet in the latter half of 1918, just as the war ground brutally to its conclusion. The first performance of the work took place privately on 19 April 1919, and the public première was given at the Wigmore Hall on 21 May by an ensemble including violinists Albert Sammonds and W.H. Reed, violist Raymond Jeremy, and cellist Felix Salmond.

 

At the start of the war, Delius and his wife were living in the village of Grez-sur-Loing, just south of Paris. As the Germans advanced swiftly toward the River Marne in the conflict’s opening weeks, they were forced to leave their house temporarily and evacuate to Orléans, where Delius was deeply moved by the sight of wounded servicemen and other refugees. Though they returned briefly as the German line was repelled, Thomas Beecham persuaded them to travel to England in November 1914, where the Deliuses stayed for the next 8-9 months. Here, Delius embraced the opportunity to hear music being performed both in London and elsewhere. – at a Hallé Orchestra concert in Manchester, for example, he was introduced to the Harrison sisters, Beatrice and May, for whom he would later write his set of three string concertos and sonatas. The Deliuses returned to France permanently in late November 1915, and in a letter to Percy Grainger dated 11 January 1916, he wrote: ‘we are so glad to be back in Grez again – our Garden was terribly neglected so we are both working in it every afternoon – No gardener is to be had – Otherwise one does not feel the war here whatever.’ Delius began to write his String Quartet in the spring, completing the first version of the work (in three movements) in June. It received its first performance by the London String Quartet at the Aeolian Hall on 17 November 1916 (where Albert Sammonds was again the principal violin). The Musical Times wrote of ‘a serious contribution to musical art – the most important, in fact, that has been heard in London during the present season’. Delius was nevertheless dissatisfied with the score, and revised it the following year, reworking the outer movements, adding a scherzo (drawing on material from an earlier abandoned quartet written c. 1888), and completely recomposing the slow movement, Late Swallows.

 

Delius never destroyed the materials for the first (three-movement) version of his quartet, and the autograph score, sketches, and an incomplete set of copied parts survive in the British Library.

 

For this recording, the original 1916 versions of the opening movement and of Late Swallows have been reassembled, and they present a fascinating comparison with the more familiar later (1917) version of the quartet. The original version of the opening movement (marked Allegro moderato) was more heavily scored, and has a much richer, darker hue than the later revision. The differences between the two versions of Late Swallows are much more radical. Formally, the two versions follow the same basic plan, but the original version opens with an elaborate ascending arabesque in the first violin, suggesting perhaps the soaring flight of the summer migrants in the movement’s title. The middle section is also recomposed: the original music has a Mahlerian sense of poignancy. It will never be clear exactly why Delius changed his mind about the original version of his Quartet, but this rare glimpse into his compositional workshop is a significant discovery.

 

Marketing, Promotion and Further information

This new CD will be fully serviced to UK press and media. Advertising will include appropriate classical magazines both in print and online. Please request a review copy of the disc from [email protected] (and interview requests can be accommodated quickly via the same route).

This new CD follows two highly acclaimed releases on the Naxos imprint - Robert Still: The Four String Quartets (8.571353) and Peter Racine Fricker: The String Quartets (8.571374).

 

Concert Information

Both works will be performed in Concert on 17th May at the VQ Season at Nottingham High School and on 6th June at the Devizes Arts Festival. Other dates are in process of being confirmed.

An invitation only CD launch event will be held on 24th May at The National Liberal Club in London. To be added to the guest list, please contact us via [email protected]

 





February 6, 2017

 

The Villiers Quartet release World Premiere recordings of Quartets by Peter Racine Fricker, in collaboration with the British Music Society and Naxos Records. Peter Racine Fricker was undoubtedly one of the UK’s finest composers, sadly neglected and rejected by the English Establishment, in 1964 he moved to California where he took up a teaching position at UCSB. He continued to compose prolifically, returning to England occasionally.

Born on 5th September 1920 to parents who met during their service in the Mediterranean theatre of World War I, Fricker’s interest in music took root while he was a student at St Paul’s School. He was especially interested in organ performance, studying with Henry Wilson and Ralph Downes; he also formed an enduring friendship with fellow student Dennis Brain. Fricker entered the Royal College in 1937, continuing his study with Wilson and with Ernest Bullock. This training was thoroughly conservative in outlook, with reverent and obsessive attention paid to counterpoint that would forever remain a hallmark of Fricker’s musicianship, however much he may have strayed into new directions. At this time, his interest in composition vied with his interest in organ performance; he continued to consider a career as a concert organist until the late 1940s. He entered military service in 1941, maintaining his musical interests as best he could through the remainder of the war, most frequently composing piano music.

The “Adagio and Scherzo” for string quartet remains the most thoroughly developed work from this time. They were written in the summer of 1943, and were probably intended as the central movements of a formal quartet.

With the end of his military service, Fricker set about resuming his career in music straight away. Determined now to be a composer, he sought out the fervent environment at Morley College. It was here that he met his mentor, Matyas Seiber, (whom he later called “the greatest teacher of the 20th century”) and Michael Tippett. Among so many stimulating influences, Fricker began producing publishable work. His first important success was the Wind Quintet, Op. 5, which took the Clements Prize of 1947 which Dennis Brain took into his repertoire with great and lasting enthusiasm. Fricker then turned to the string quartet in the summer of 1948 as he sought to build a solid base for his catalogue, and successes accumulated at a breathtaking pace. His Op. 8 was started on 14th July and finished on 5th November. He submitted it for the Edwin Evans Prize: though he lost to Elizabeth Maconchy, the committee made honourable mention of him.

His First Symphony, Op. 9, completed in February 1949, was awarded the 1949 Koussevitzky Prize, and was scheduled for a première performance at the 1950 Cheltenham Festival thereby heightening awareness of Fricker as a serious composer. The Op. 8 String Quartet received its première in London in September followed by the Amadeus Quartet’s performance on 11th October and they featured it the following summer on European tour to much critical acclaim. The quartet is cast in one movement, but within this casing an unusual organization of three-movement form may be felt.

A steady flow of compositions followed – mostly concerti. Fricker followed Tippet as Director of Music at Morley College, a post he held for 12 years. By the summer of 1952 Fricker was writing another quartet at the Amadeus’s behest, which he completed in 1953. Despite the warm reception that the Second Quartet received, Fricker would not revisit the medium for twenty years – at the time there was a lack of enthusiasm from publishers for the quartet genre. Elliott Carter’s Third String Quartet changed this view: Fricker dedicated his own Third Quartet to Carter “in admiration”, writing without a commission, and completing it at the end of 1976. Sadly enough, the Quartet went un-played until he suggested it for the 1984 Cheltenham Festival. Fricker was delighted with the very successful performance by the Chilingirian Quartet on 19th July.

Though he began thinking about a Fourth Quartet in the summer of 1989, he was, by then, stricken with terminal cancer and struggling to finish the commissions he had at work. He died in Santa Barbara on 1st February 1990.

For more information and press querys, please contact John Cronin at [email protected]




November 1, 2016

 

The Villiers Quartet are travelling to the USA for their second American tour on the 2nd November 2016.


They will perform at the Setnor School of Music of Syracuse University, New York (3 - 4 November) and take part in a Music Residency with the Hopkins Center for the Arts and the Music Department of Dartmouth College, New Hampshire (8-12 November). The Villiers Quartet will also perform in Boston, Massachusetts and have additional performances in Hanover, New Hampshire. The final concert on the 12th November is a performance with Pianist-in Residence Sally Pinkas at Dartmouth’s Rollins Chapel, featuring the rarely performed Piano Quintet in D minor by English composer Frank Bridge. While at Dartmouth, the Villiers Quartet will also collaborate with students and visit classes at Dartmouth College's Music Department, working with Professors Steve Swayne, Theodore Levin, and Kui Dong.


Following this USA tour, the Villiers Quartet will give a concert with clarinettist Victoria Soames Samek for the St. Andrew’s Music Festival in Sheffield on 19th November. They will play music by the British composer Ray Kohn. The Villiers Quartet will then return to the University of Oxford, to continue their residency at the Faculty of Music (20 - 24 November), where they will perform works by Tchiakovsky, Nielsen, Sibelius, and music by University of Oxford professor Robert Saxton.

 

There are two CDs to be released by Naxos next year. Their CD with music by Peter Racine Fricker will be launched in London on 13th February 2017 and their CD with works by Elgar and Delius will also be launched in London on 24th May 2017.


The Villiers Quartet is the Radcliffe Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Oxford's Faculty of Music. They are also Quartet-in-Residence at the independent school Nottingham High School.


For further information please contact John Cronin at Music and Media @

[email protected]

or

Mary Kaptein @

[email protected]

 

 





August 4, 2016

The Villiers Quartet is pleased to announce it has joined the roster of Mary Kaptein Management. MKM is based in the Netherlands and provides international management for a small group of classical musicians. Mary Kaptein, Director of MKM, adds “The Villiers Quartet are renowned for their interpretations of works by British composers and have a residency in Oxford. Currently they are recording a new CD with quartets by Elgar and Delius.” The Villiers Quartet looks ahead to new collaborations with Mary Kaptein Management.




May 28, 2016

 

Kristina Wolfe, composer of her work Planctus, is the Winner of the 2016 VQ New Works Competition. After an evening celebrating new music at the Jacqueline du Pre Music Building at St. Hilda's College, Oxford University, Kristina's piece was voted by the audience as the winner on 27th May 2016. The prizes of the final, announced by presenter Paul Gambaccini, were in this order:

First Place

Kristina Wolfe - Planctus

 

Second Place

Ian Munro - String Quartet No. 1 "from an exhibition of Australian woodcuts"

 

Third Place

Andrew Guo - Fantasy for string quartet

 

 




May 21, 2016

 

Stratford Herald

March 26, 2015

by Clive Peacock

Earlier in the month Villiers emerged as the winners of the Radcliffe Competition in Oxford entitling them to a three year residency within Oxford University. Their rivals included previous Leamington Music performers Piatti and the much talked about Ligeti. Villiers impressed the Leamington audience, just as they impressed the Oxford jury, with an impassioned performance of Elgar’s String Quartet in E minor Opus 83, composed in 1918 and dedicated to the original Brodsky Quartet. This remains as only one of three major chamber works Elgar composed – an earlier string quartet, Opus 8 he destroyed. The seclusion of a cottage in West Sussex, to escape the war, gave Elgar the inspiration to compose.

James Dickenson led the three punishing movements confidently, maintaining the quartet’s reputation for adventurous interpretations of English composers. The middle of the three movements (piacevole) is indeed a most agreeable movement, “capturing the sunshine” as Lady Elgar described it.

If there is a quartet that typifies what it means to be unjustly neglected then it’s the String Quartet by Delius! Fortunately, viola player Carmen Flores, took the opportunity to promote this piece and describe the Delius background; the impact of time spent in Jacksonville, Florida; the Leipzig and Paris highlights and the influence of Wagner and Grieg producing some of the most lyrical music to emerge from the pen of an Englishman. What a joy to listen to her word-perfect delivery with every word heard by all, together with a bit of humour – an excellent demonstration of building rapport with an audience!

With elements of Ravel and something of Debussy, the Delius Quartet in the hands of Villiers has moments of thoughtful animation which suits them well, most particularly the ‘Late Swallows’ third movement reflecting the Delius wish to return to France from Germany where he achieved much of his success. Flores viola playing was memorable.

Villiers chose to open their concert with Haydn’s 46th quartet, Opus 55 No2 in F minor (nicknamed the razor). Lots of concentration, clever interpretation of pauses and intricate work between cello (Nick Stringfellow) and viola were noted hallmarks of this enterprising quartet.

For original link, visit: http://archive.stratford-herald.com/34735-review-villiers-string-quarter.html




May 18, 2016

 

The Villiers Quartet's recording of Piano Quintets by David Matthews and Dmitri Shostakovich for SOMM Records, recorded with pianist Martin Cousin, was named Recording of the Month by MusicWeb International, for the month of April 2016. Read the review at http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2016/Apr/Shostakovich_quintet_SOMMCD0157.htm 





April 25, 2016

 

The Villiers Quartet, the Oxford University Faculty of Music Quartet-in-Residence, will be joined by outstanding music presenter and Oxford alumnus Paul Gambaccini, as host of the final round for the international 2016 VQ New Works Competition Final. The Villiers Quartet will perform the works of the three finalists, Andrew Guo (USA), Ian Munro (AUSTRALIA), and Kristina Wolfe (USA/DENMARK). The concert will take place on Friday, May 27th at 7:00pm at the Jacqueline Du Pre Music Building. The concert will also be livestreamed. The winner will be determined by audience vote. Tickets can be purchased at the JDP Music Building website.


 

Programme:


Andrew Guo (USA) – Fantasy

Ian Munro (Australia) – String Quartet No. 1 'from an exhibition of Australian woodcuts'

Kristina Wolfe (USA/Denmark) – Planctus


with special guest host,

BBC presenter Paul Gambaccini


 

 

 

 




April 21, 2016

SOMMCD 0157Céleste Series
First Recording of Piano Quintet Op. 92 by DAVID MATTHEWS
Piano Quintet Op. 57 by DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH
Release date: 1 April 2016

VILLIERS STRING QUARTET
(James Dickenson, Tamaki Higashi violins, Carmen Flores viola, Nick Stringfellow cello)
MARTIN COUSIN
piano

This new release brings an exciting world premiere recording to the SOMM catalogue – the Piano Quintet Op. 92 by David Matthews coupled with an ideal companion piece, the Piano Quintet by DmitriShostakovich. David Matthews wrote his Piano Quintet in 2004 as an engagement present for his wife Jenifer, so in his view, its overall happy mood is appropriate.

David Matthews says in the CD booklet notes:"When I wrote a piano quartet in 1995 I called it A Song and Dance Sketchbook because I didn't want to follow the classical formal scheme, but also to acknowledge that each of its six movements was either a song or a dance. In this Piano Quintet I chose to adhere, more or less, to the traditional scheme: four movements, with a scherzo and a slow movement in the middle. The song and dance element, however, remains just as predominant. The outer movements are essentially lyrical while the middle movements are dance movements, with the chaconne third movement a blend of song and dance."

The first movement is based almost entirely on variations of the motif heard in the piano after the opening three chords. The second movement is a Tango, a form that has come to interest David Matthews a great deal. This one, his fourth tango, is in some ways the most traditional, since the tango seems particularly suited to the medium of piano and strings. The third movement Chaconne is in agiocoso mood with an arresting Finale which grew out of a walking holiday in Italy in the spring of 2004 on an Easter Sunday morning. Matthews heard the bells of the nearby town of Montefalco and they appear at the centre of the movement as he notated them, with the rest of the thematic material derived from them.

The Shostakovich Piano Quintet is considered one of his finest works and one of a small handful of great piano quintets written in the 20th century. There is a certain affinity between the Quintet by David Matthews and that of Shostakovich - similarities in pace and mood as well as the special interaction between piano and strings and also the appearance, in the first movement, of a tiny three-note cell begun by the piano that in the Shostakovich, can be traced all through the work. Shostakovich began work on the Quintet in the summer of 1940 and completed it in September. It was premiered in November 1940 by the Beethoven Quartet for whom he wrote most of his string quartets, with the composer at the piano. It was a great success and was awarded the Stalin Prize of 100,000 roubles, a gesture which seemed to confirm the complete public rehabilitation of the composer following the regime's blistering attacks on his opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk.


For more information and review copies please contact:
John Cronin at Music & Media Consulting

[email protected]




April 16, 2016

 

The Villiers Quartet announces the 3 finalists of the VQ New Works Competition 2016. The finalists were chosen by public vote after an online semifinal round. (Names in alphabetical order):

 

Andrew Guo (USA)
Fantasy

 

Ian Munro (AUSTRALIA)
String Quartet No. 1 'from an exhibition of Australian woodcuts'

Kristina Wolfe (USA/DENMARK)
Planctus


The Villiers Quartet will perform these works live in the final round at the Jacqueline Du Pre Music Building, Oxford University, on May 27th. The concert will be livestreamed, and the audience will vote for the winner. For more information, visit www.villiersquartet.com/competition2016

 

Congratulations to the finalists!

 





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