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:

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 

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.



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

(James Dickenson, Tamaki Higashi violins, Carmen Flores viola, Nick Stringfellow cello)

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)


String Quartet No. 1 'from an exhibition of Australian woodcuts'

Kristina Wolfe (USA/DENMARK)

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


Congratulations to the finalists!


April 12, 2016


Our final VQ Composer Spotlight features composer and sound artist Kristina Wolfe. Kristina is a PhD candidate in Multimedia and Computer Music Experiments (MEME) at Brown University. Her music often bridges the chasm of time across two worlds, between the historical and the contemporary, and her interests run the range of electronic music, spectral music, medievalism, lutherie, and musical scoring techniques. Kristina plays the Viola da gamba, Electric Bass and Double Bass. Her work Planctus for quartet uses scordatura tuning, which was often used in Renaissance viols and lutes, to create special timbres and chords between the players.


Where are you from?

I am from Denmark and the United States. I grew up spending summers in the Mols Bjerge area of Denmark, and its history and beautiful scenery really inspired me and my compositional practice. I currently live with my husband in Florida.



What got you interested in composition?

I think I have always been interested in composition. When I was very young, I was driven to try to compose music but I felt like I didn’t know what to do. I was very interested in sounds and I would try to work with them using tape recorders, keys on the piano, poetry singing - anything I could find. I would also try to record my proto-compositions using invented notations that I could never remember how to use. Eventually I began formal musical training but my interest in writing music was present long before that time.



Who have been your biggest musical influences?

Guillaume de Machaut, Giacinto Scelsi, John Jenkins, Pauline Oliveros, Jonathan Harvey, G.F. Haas, Liza Lim, and Horatiu Radulescu.


I am also heavily influenced by atmosphere: environment, time, space, place, etc., and many of the influences on my work have come from wandering through locations I find ghostly or inspiring.



What are some challenges or advantages when writing for string quartet?

My favorite aspect of writing for string quartet is the opportunity to work with subtleties of timbre. Voices can blend into a single sound and then immediately leap out into diverse registers and textures such as the sound of wind, scratching, the sounds of metal, wood, or an ethereal harmonic. Also, I love the intimacy of a string quartet. Every member is equally important and equally beautiful. No one player can hide or be hidden by any other.



Anything else you wish to say about Planctus?

Planctus is special to me. I began to compose this lament after hearing the hollow, ancient, almost AM radio-like timbre high above the 4th position on the Cello’s lowest string. It spoke to something I was thinking about at the time. Once I began, I became very devoted to finishing the piece and did nothing else until it was written down. I generally try to pace myself when composing, but this time I could not. Afterwards, I reworked the score numerous times to communicate the textures of the work in the notation.


Visit the VQ New Works Competition Page to hear Kristina's piece.


Kristina Wolfe - photo credit Arvid Tomayko-Peters


April 10, 2016


For the Villiers Quartet, running the VQ New Works Competition is like leaping into a pool of endless creativity. The musical experimentation and insight from composers we receive is always electrifying. The result is that we too are encouraged to experiment, and push beyond our comfort zone as a quartet. The fundamental relationship between composer and performer is reinforced.


The international scope of our project is also significant. This year, we received entries from composers across 34 countries. Today we welcome our first semifinalist from Australia, composer Ian Munro. In 1987, Ian won 2nd prize in the Leeds International Piano Competition, launching his career as a concert pianist. After many years performing and recording, he became Head of Principal Studies at the Conservatorium of Music of the University of Tasmania, where he began composing. In 2002, Ian's first major work 'Dreams' for piano and orchestra won the Premier Grand Prix at the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels.


Ian is a member of the pioneering chamber group the Australia Ensemble, and he has forthcoming commissions from the Melbourne and Adelaide Symphony Orchestras. His String Quartet No. 1 'from an exhibition of Australian woodcuts' is inspired by the work of Australian artists.



Where are you from?

My home town is Melbourne, Australia, where I was born but where I have not lived for thirty years, despite its remaining my favourite city. Fortunately, I travel there fairly often.


What got you interested in composition?

Essentially, the music I was playing as a small boy had such an effect on me that I saw no earthly reason why I shouldn't have a go at making some of my own. What I learned very quickly was that writing ones own music is a special way of experiencing music that all musicians should feel able to try, because it's rewarding in ways that are hard to articulate but also deep and satisfying. I also learned that it's a lot harder than it looks.


Who have been your biggest musical influences?

My piano teachers, clearly, all with their special understandings, musical heritages and feelings. The composers I play and love, from Mozart to Debussy, Grainger and beyond. Being a pianist with a career in chamber music, I find myself influenced and shaped by my playing colleagues, more and more, rather than less as the years go by. Primarily, though, I'd say it was my dad, an amateur pianist who taught himself from a book and who would play Beethoven down the other end of the house as we were going to sleep. He, more than anyone, passed on a love of playing the piano for which I'm very grateful.


What are some challenges or advantages when writing for string quartet?

For a pianist like me, the obvious challenges remain those of a non string player attempting to get to grips with idiomatic writing for instruments I don't play myself (although I was a cellist in the distant past). On the other hand, my colleagues in the Australia Ensemble and the Goldner Quartet never fail to be generous in fielding my relentless questions about bowings, harmonics and double stops, so I am lucky to have experts on hand to help with advice. Nevertheless, the string quartet is possibly the perfect ensemble, with a repertoire that embodies the deepest and finest thoughts of many of the deepest and finest minds, so the inspiration from the past in this genre is as breathtaking as that of the piano or the orchestra. That said, it can be rather daunting to consider contributing to that overflowing treasury.


Anything else you wish to say about your piece?

The piece carries the subtitle 'From an exhibition of Australian woodcuts' which I should explain a little. A visit a few years ago to the art gallery of Ballarat in country Victoria with my mother brought me into contact with the collection held there of early twentieth century woodcuts and lino prints, which were evocative of a period in Australian art which has fascinated me since childhood, when I was a keen painter. I liked the idea of responding to those often strikingly simple but textural renderings, in music, trying to capture the moods and questions that they prompted. Studying and contemplating them, it seemed that I was most intrigued by their evocation of aspects of Australian life that are now gone.

For the information of those who do not know Sydney, it has not seen a tram for many decades now, but the Bondi tram was probably the most famous one in the country in its heyday. Melbourne, by way of contrast, kept her trams, and has felt superior about it ever since.


Visit the VQ New Works Competition Page to hear Ian's piece.

Ian Munro

Australia Ensemble


April 6, 2016


Teodor Nicolau was born in Romania, and studied violin at the Bucharest Music Academy. As a violinist, he joined the George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra in Bucharest, and later played in the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra in Finland, where he was a member for 36 years. During his time in Helsinki, he studied conducting with Jorma Panula, and composition with Einar Englud. As a composer, Teodor's works have been performed in Finland, Estonia, Germany, Russia, Romania, and the Netherlands. Distant Echoes was written to commorate the reunion of his string quartet, the Athenaeum Quartet of Bucharest, which disbanded in 1975 after members emigrated to join orchestras around the world. The quartet reunited in 2015, and Teodor wrote Distant Echoes to commemorate their reunion after spending 40 years apart.


Where are you from?

I was born in a small town, in the middle of the Transylvania plateau, in Romania. At the age of 29 I moved to Finland, and after 40 years I’m still living here.


What got you interested in composition?

I played the violin all my life: in some orchestras, in some quartets, in some chamber ensembles, and I enjoyed playing a lot. But the real thing for me happens when I’m writing music, when I’m modifying, shaping, editing and developing my own musical ideas until I feel that my work is ready.


Who have been your biggest musical influences?

Romanian folk music… George Enescu… Bela Bartok… Nordic composers… and many, many more…


What are some challenges or advantages when writing for string quartet?

Writing for a quartet teaches you to be very critical with the musical material you use to build your work. Every sound and pause, every line, texture, every rhythm etc., has a very own specific task.


Anything else you wish to say about Distant Echoes?

I think the title and the music say all. I was so happy to hear my piece played by your quartet, even an excerpt of it! We have to remember that a composition it is not born when the composer finishes it, but when it is played.

Visit the VQ New Works Competition page to hear Teodor Nicolau's piece.

Teodor Nicolau