Guest Blog - Edward Clark: Recording Shostakovich and David Matthews

February 17, 2015


For two intense days the Villiers Quartet were in attendance at the Jacqueline du Pre concert hall at St Hilda's College, Oxford to record two piano quintets with the young master pianist, Martin Cousin.

The music was by Shostakovich and David Matthews, not really bedfellows perhaps but each in his way produces a work of great intensity and beauty. Indeed the Matthews work was written as a present for his fiance, Jenifer Wakelin!  
The recording is for the SOMM label and will be issued later this year.

The Shostakovich is, of course, a classic of its time and has endured as one of the Russian master's greatest chamber works. It has a particularly disarming finale which seems to deny it the heroic ending it seems to deserve. But Shostakovich was experimenting with such feelings in his string quartets at this time as well so we should not be too surprised

The players were kept busy by the musical demands for longer than expected in a quest to capture the essence of the two works, being very different in expression and demands on both the heart and the mind. Under the watchful and experienced eye (and ear!) of SOMM's producer, Siva Oke, the end result was a splendid tribute to the preparation that was made in earlier rehearsals by the quartet and Martin Cousin with David Matthews in attendance for his own work. He seemed very pleased at the end with plaudits for the players.

Guest Blog by Edward Clark, President of the UK Sibelius Society

Robert Still CD receives 5 stars***** in Classical Music Magazine

February 2, 2015


The Villiers Quartet's recording of the Complete Quartets of Robert Still has received 5-stars***** in the February 2015 issue of Classical Music Magazine.

You can read the full review here.  Purchase the CD or download on Amazon, Classics Online, and Presto Classical.


Villiers Quartet featured in Gramophone Magazine

January 4, 2015

The VQ has been featured in the January 2015 issue of Gramophone Magazine, with a review by Andrew Achenbach of our Robert Still Quartets CD.  He writes,

"No praise can be too high for these sublimely articulated and concentrated readings by the Villiers Quartet, for whose leader, James Dickenson, the whole project was very much a labour of love. Admirable sound and balance, too."

Read the full review here.



Seasons Greetings from the VQ

December 25, 2014

2014 is coming to an end, and everyone is cherishing this special time.  We have many new adventures ahead for us in 2015. We hope to bring an even more vivid VQ sound to you in the coming new year. 

We will perform our programme of Schuberts Quartettsatz and Beethovens Razumovsky Op. 59/2 at our first concert of the new year on January 18th, 2015 at Hertford Music Club.  We love coming back to these classical masterworks, especially after spending lots of time on new music at VQ New Works 2014. To rediscover the vast palette of string quartets is amazing.  We always learn a lot from studying, looking at scores and learning these pieces. This kind of understanding gives us our original interpretation and sound when it comes to new works or other great composers, including those whose music should be played more often such as Robert Still or Alan Bush.  You can get your copy of our Robert Still CD at

After receiving wonderful acclaim for our last recording project, we will be doing our next recording project for SOMM Recordings with the superb pianist, Martin Cousin.

We will be recording one of the greatest Piano Quintets by Shostakovich, and pair it with another quintet by one of the most accomplished composers of our time, David Matthews.  We are excited for this amazing collaboration.

So shall we now have glasses of something for holiday cheer? Merry Christmas to you all!



Villiers Quartet debut CD receives 4**** stars in BBC Music Magazine

December 4, 2014


The debut CD of the Villiers Quartet, Complete Quartets of Robert Still, released on Naxos with the British Music Society, has received 4**** stars in the December 2014 issue of BBC Music Magazine.




Guest Blog - Jose Gonzalez Granero, 2014 VQ New Works Competition Winner

October 24, 2014


From the First Note to Competition Winner

Jose Gonzalez Granero


I first heard about the Villiers Quartet New Works Competition through the internet. I was just finishing my first string quartet around March 2014. The timing couldn’t have been better.

I had started to write my string quartet around January 2014, but it took me several months to decide if I was going to write the first note, or even write the piece at all. The initial thought of composing for string quartet is rather intimidating and scary. One cannot avoid looking back in time at the amount and quality of the quartet literature already written. In addition to this, I felt that as a wind player, the pressure upon me to write skillfully for string quartet was multiplied.

My first project was to study other compositions by great composers (Beethoven, Ravel, Bartok…). I spent hours listening and following the scores. The more I listened, the more scared I became about starting my own composition...but I kept learning about strings. I am fortunate to play daily in an orchestra that gives me the advantage to be surrounded by great string players. I asked questions of my colleagues, and I read about string technique. After a few months of debating whether or not ‘bother’ composing yet ‘another’ string quartet, I finally had the determination to start the first notes.

When I approached the piece, I visualized it as a whole picture before starting. I based the quartet on a motive that would repeat during the whole composition. This motive, based in ten notes, would pass through every instrument, and I used it to explore different colors and characters. I took inspiration from a short poem by Garcia Lorca.

When my piece was finished, I had the chance to have it played by some of my colleagues and friends, and I liked what I heard. After this long process, I was determined to submit my composition to the VQ New Works Competition. The composition was advertised around the internet, and by coincidence I came across the call for new works on Facebook.

After sending my piece by the deadline, I learned that the amount of applicants was near 150. A few months passed and I forgot about the competition. Around July, the Villiers Quartet announced the 6 semifinalists. I woke up to an email informing me that I had been chosen to be a semifinalist.

The Villiers Quartet competition is a different competition. They encourage the audience to be active in the process of deciding, and the audience actually decides! Anyone could vote for any of the 6 semifinalists. I had a few weeks to promote my piece around the internet and encourage people to vote for my work to be a finalist. The few weeks of the online voting round went by, and I couldn’t believe I was in the final.

The live final round took place in London at Kings Place, and my piece was going to be performed by the Villiers Quartet along with the other 2 finalists. It was a compelling occasion to attend, so I decided to travel all the way from San Francisco to London. I had never been to the UK, so this was the perfect excuse to take a trip.


The night of the final I was as nervous as if I was performing. Beautiful hall, great musicians and very talented finalists. I enjoyed the night, sitting in the audience, listening to my music and listening to the other great new compositions. The competition was organized in an innovative and excellent way, giving a new perspective to classical music, and I was involved with it. Nothing could have gone better, and I won the competition thanks to the audience members who voted for me. I enjoyed the process from beginning to end, and now I am more motivated than ever to keep composing. Thank you to the Villiers Quartet!


Guest Blog written by Jose Gonzalez Granero, Winner of the 2014 VQ New Works Competition

Guest Blog - Edward Clark: Robert Still and the VQ

October 5, 2014



Guest Blog on Robert Still


By Edward Clark, President of the Sibelius Society


Sometimes when you get a feeling in your head about something or someone you have to do something at some time!

 I first heard the music of Robert Still in the late 1960’s when the Third Symphony was released on the SAGA LP label. It was conducted by Sir Eugene Goossens, who had premiered it at the Royal Festival Hall and was then asked to record it by the composer (who funded the recording). Goossens sadly died three days after the recording.

I felt an affinity with this music, the slow movement has an understated beauty, very English. You can buy this recording coupled with the more assertive Fourth Symphony on the Lyrita label. Well worth a tenner.

Many years elapsed before I could help spread the message about Still’s music. I gradually entered the world of classical music as an amateur producer of concerts (whilst pursuing a business career now over thank god). This extended my contacts no end and I met members of the Villiers Quartet four years ago. A more willing group of delightful musicians is hard to imagine.

Meanwhile I had discovered the Still archive was at Trinity Laban library in London. My friend, Graham Musto, had tipped me off. He knows more about Still than anyone. Much of the music was/is in manuscript but, being a violinist manqué, I first looked at the unperformed Violin Concerto. A long story later this was premiered by Efi Christodoulou with John Gibbons conducting, in London in 2013.

The four string quartets were all in manuscript and needed a lot of attention. I consulted with James Dickenson, leader of VQ and he volunteered to edit the scores and arrange publication.

VQ gave the premiere of the Third String Quartet at St John’s, Smith Square, three years ago; then the First Quartet at the Barnes Music Festival in 2014. By this time I had joined the British Music Society committee and persuaded my fellow members to record the cycle of quartets with VQ.

The result is the splendid CD now issued on Naxos and sponsored by the BMS.    


-Edward Clark


James's Blog: This Monday

October 4, 2014

James's Blog:

So Monday is an exciting day.....our long awaited release launch of the Robert Still Quartets. I received a very nice email from a composer this week about our CD, apart from being complimentary he was delighted that we chose an unknown composer for our debut CD.  Quite unusual he mused, true, but not accidental.....

The job description for musicians is a little amorphous, but is it really to regurgitate the same old pieces over and over again?  Does the world really need another Beethoven 18. 6 recording,  as great as that maybe? Chris Rowland my teacher often complained of new recordings that said nothing new, "what's the point!?" In the same way as he often moaned at me for playing repeated music exactly the same.......... "why?"

Well there can be no criticism here of plagiarism as this is the only recording, in fact Quartets 2 and 3 have never had a performance.


Available on Naxos a very reasonable £5.99.


Naxos/British Music Society: Robert Still, Complete String Quartets CD - World Premiere Recording

October 3, 2014


Released this week - The Four String Quartets of Robert Still.


We are pleased to announce the release of our debut CD for Naxos and the British Music Society, the Four String Quartets by English composer Robert Still.


The Official Release Party is Monday, October 6th, at the National Liberal Club, Whitehall Place (off Villiers Street).  For more information about the event, visit

Celebrating Creativity

September 24, 2014



Tamaki's blog

The Villiers Quartet with Simon Parkin, Jose Gonzalez Granero, and presenter Matthew Sharp. Photo by Adrian Lowdon



Wherever a musical concert takes place in the world, there are lots of discussions by organisers of what to put on the programme. Often there are differences between what the musicians want to play, what the organisers want to promote, and what the audiences want to hear. And it is alright to say that nowadays, we are still very conservative when it comes to putting new music into a concert programme. We might get more people if we play the Dvořak "American" quartet, or Haydn "Fifths," rather than composers whose names aren't instantly recognisable.


But I am sure the audiences who came last Sunday to Kings Place, and listened with open ears to the grand final of our new music competition, would agree with me that the new music heard that evening had just as much power as the "old masters" to evoke an emotional message, and touch your heart.

Matthew Sharp, presenter, with the Villiers Quartet. Photo by Adrian Lowdon


I think it is brilliant that everybody there, including the VQ, shared three amazing new works with total open-mindness and allowed these composers to reach out to our individual hearts. It was amazing. For the us, it was simply an evening to once again recognise the power of music, and to celebrate the creative mind. Thanks to our finalists Jose, Simon and Matthew. And thank you once again to all the composers from all over the world who were brave enough to join us and take part in the 2014 VQ New Works Competition. The buzz we had at Kings Place was only the part of all the creative energy sent to us, the Villiers Quartet, this year. We are so grateful. What a successful ‘Game of Tones!’ To be continued…..


With love,