Thu 3rd Oct 2019 - 1pm
Assembly House Classical Presents
Lucy Russell & Marcus Barcham-Stevens – violins
Alan George – viola & Sally Pendlebury – cello
Bach Art of Fugue No 1
Shostakovich String Quartet No 11
Beethoven String Quartet Op 131
The Fitzwilliam is now one of the longest established string quartets in the world: founded in 1968 by four Cambridge undergraduates, the group quickly achieved international recognition as a result of its members’ personal friendship with Dmitri Shostakovich and their subsequent championing of his string quartets following his death. He entrusted them with the Western premières of the last three, and before long they had become the first ever group to perform and record all fifteen. These discs, which gained many international awards, secured for them a worldwide concert schedule and a long term recording contract with Decca. Whilst the FSQ’s pre-eminence in the interpretation of these works has persisted, the authority gained has also been put at the service of diverse other composers, from the late 17th century to the present day. It remains one of the few prominent quartets to play on historical instrument set-ups, but has simultaneously brought about the addition of over 50 new works to the repertoire. Its involvement in 2013 with celebrating Britten's anniversary, and before that the chamber works of Delius and Grainger, are but two recent manifestations of the players’ enthusiasm for using anniversaries to promote less familiar music – following Vaughan Williams in 2008: thus it would appear that England is gradually taking its place alongside Russia and Vienna as a principal area of speciality, while in 2015 they looked further north, to honour the joint 150th birthdays of Glazunov, Sibelius and Carl Nielsen.
The last two or three years have witnessed an increase in the their presence on the British festival scene, with invitations from Petworth, Three Choirs, Leamington, Buxton, Ryedale, City of London, Fishguard, Swaledale, English Haydn, Beverley Early Music – during which time they have also been granted their very own chamber music festival in the prestigious “town of books” – Hay-on-Wye. Similarly, they have become more prominent once again in London, notably at King’s Place, Conway Hall, and St John’s Smith Square.
2018 will begin with the realisation of a long term ambition to record Beethoven and Schubert quartets on gut strings, following the success of previous recordings on historical instruments: the plan is to begin with a CD of the former’s Opp.74/95/135. Thereafter, ideas are already forming for a big celebration of the Quartet’s 50th anniversary season in 2018/19.
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